This last week my images were inspired by some things I read in Photography and the Art of Seeing by Freeman Patterson. He says, “The expressive quality of a photograph depends on the photographer’s ability to abstract, that is, to separate the parts from the whole. Abstracting is recognizing both the basic from of something and the elements that make up that form.”
“Abstracting is not something you have to learn; you do it all the time without being aware of it. . . . Improving your ability to abstract takes practice. . . .Once you have abstracted the visual elements most essential to a scene or event, you have to select. Selecting is choosing those parts of the subject matter that will best express the character of the scene or the meaning of the event.”
“Abstracting and selecting are important to all types of photography.”
This got me thinking about abstract as a verb, so I looked it up in the dictionary. abstract v 1. to make an abstract of; summarize 2. to draw or take away; remove 3. to divert or draw away the attention of 4. to steal 5. to consider as a general quality of characteristic apart from specific objects or instances: to abstract the notions of time, space, and matter.
The definition of abstract meaning to remove inspired my new filters removing shapes from the filter and slicing them then opening them to add space. In the first series I trimmed them, sliced them, and curved them open then put them back inside the opening. In the second series I cut out the shapes sliced them, removed every other section and wove them back in, waffling the shapes. I really enjoy how the light bends around the paper shapes and how the colors blend and move through the spaces.
Abstracting these basic shapes into line, shape, and color are creating more dimension and movement than the attempts at creating abstract designs within the filters themselves.
When speaking of exercising your imagination, Mr. Patterson wrote, “Indulging in fantasy helps us to discover new ideas. Try looking at things in crazy ways.” He talked about a student who took a picture of his dog. He said, “A student of mine made a photograph of my German shepherd by panning while the dog was running over very rough ground. The panning of the camera, along with both the forward and up-and-down movements of the dog’s legs, made her hind legs look like wheels in rapid motion.
This got me thinking about the panoramic function in my camera. I had never tried it with my light-forming photography and wondered if it would work at all. The camera’s programming definitely didn’t like it, and it took many attempts before it would recognize that I was moving slowly enough and moving in the direction of the arrow, but the results were very exciting.
The camera, not able to sew the multiple abstract images together smoothly, created vertical striped and off-sets in the images. This surprise glitch creates its own abstract dimension within the photograph. Since I got it to work outside with the reflection balls in the grass and leftover snow, the next step was to see if it would work in the mirrorwold. As I expected, the camera made me really work for it. It didn’t believe that I was moving in a smooth line across a panorama, but through some serious patience, I made some very interesting photos.
Reading a novel like a novelist is abstracting a novel while reading, breaking it down into its parts, recognizing both the basic from of something (the story) and the elements that make up that form (writing techniques).
I finally read all the way through A Widow for One Year by John Irving. I now understand why I had such a hard time getting into it: it has a distant omniscient narrator and if ADHD (attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder) was a novel, this was it. However, it also had elements of every novel I’ve talked about in this series which I look forward to talking about on Thursday.
A Widow for One Year is a lot like one of my panoramic abstract photographs, constantly looking forward, trying to stitch many pieces together, and yet showing the seams, the glitches, as part of the art.
Today’s Surprising Connection
Among the many stories told within A Widow for One Year was the story of the hangman Arthur Ellis. Arthur Ellis was the pseudonym for Arthur B. English who was the official hangman of Canada between 1912 and 1935. I knew I had heard the story recently, but wasn’t sure where. Turns out it was used in the Three Pines series based on Louise Penny novels, Episode 7 (about a half hour in) “The Hangman,” which I watched and talked about when I read The Madness of Crowds.