Abstract

dewdrop bokeh Water on a magnolia leaf. Image: Su Leslie 2018

“To abstract is to draw out the essence of a matter.” – Ben Shahn

The more photographs I make, the more I realise that I’ll never capture everything in a scene. And the more I try, the busier and more confused my images become.

I’m learning to focus my brain as well as my lens; to make judgements about what is important to me; what I want my image to say. Sometimes that means taking an image into the realms of abstraction.

img_6015 A starfish in the tide. Image: Su Leslie 2018

“The less there is to look at, the more important it is that we look at it closely and carefully.” ― Kirk Varnedoe

img_6013 Cactus leaves. Image: Su Leslie 2018
DSC09393 The storm. Image: Su Leslie 2013

“What does that represent? There was never any question in plastic art, in poetry, in music, of representing anything. It is a matter of making something beautiful, moving, or dramatic – this is by no means the same thing.” – Fernand Leger

img_6014 Tulips. Image: Su Leslie 2019

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | abstract

But is it art?

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Gnome sweet gnome? Su Leslie 2018

“There is no abstract art.  You must always start with something.
Afterward you can remove all reality.” — Pablo Picasso

Picasso also said “we all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth”, while the American art philosopher, Arthur C. Danto described art as “embodied meaning” — apparently to distinguish Andy Warhol’s Brillo Boxes from actual Brillo boxes.

So is my image art? It contains a stripped-away (and colour-inverted) image of  art — a cast-glass sculpture by Gregor Kregar (Creature exhibition, Sarjeant Gallery, Whanganui.)

Is it whimsy? A comment on homelessness? Or is it nothing more than a collection of pixels to which you each will respond in your own way? Please let me know.

Debbie at Travel with Intent started me on this train of thought with this week’s quote-inspired challenge. If you haven’t already, pop over to see her wonderfully abstract images.

Playtime in the electronic studio

Blurred, exposed twice, tweaked a bit ... Abstract image in blues and greens. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Blurred, exposed twice, tweaked a bit … Image: Su Leslie, 2017

When photography took on the role of offering verisimilitude from painting, it freed painters to experiment with new forms of artistic expression.

Now, the ubiquity of photo-editing tools offers photographers a similar chance to experiment, play, and test the boundaries of the medium.

Blurred image; movement of the camera while shooting in woodland. Image:  Su Leslie, 2017

Error or art? Moving the camera while the shutter is open. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

In the past, “camera shake” and blurring made a photograph seem less valuable. Now such shots are just a starting point for creative play.

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Blurred, another double-exposure and tweaked a bit more. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Written for Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge at Lens and Pens by Sally.

Something from nothing: playing with the digital left-overs

Edited close-up shot of feather. Snapseed, Stackables and Pixlr. Su Leslie, 2016

Feather. Edited with Snapseed, Stackables and Pixlr. Su Leslie, 2016

Maybe it’s my Scottish Presbyterian childhood, but I hate waste.

I compost, recycle, re-use, re-purpose. Every few days I feel compelled to empty the fridge of left-overs, which makes for some interesting (but usually tasty enough) meals.

Why am I telling you this?

When I was thinking of a post for Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge, it occurred to me that — however silly it may sound — I have the same approach to my photos. Shots that don’t quite work but aren’t completely dud have a tendency to end up in the digital equivalent of the “you never know, it might come in handy someday” box.

Which I guess makes photo-editing tools the mechanism for turning digital leftovers into something … um, tasty? Or at least fun.

Photo-montage; feather. Edited with Snapseed, Stackables and Pixlr. Su Leslie, 2016

Photo-montage; feather. Edited with Snapseed, Stackables, Fused and Pixlr. Su Leslie, 2016

Photo-montage; feather. Edited with Snapseed, Stackables, Fused and Pixlr. Su Leslie, 2016

Photo-montage; feather. Edited with Snapseed, Stackables, Fused and Pixlr. Su Leslie, 2016

Photo-montage; feather. Edited with Snapseed, Stackables, Fused and Pixlr. Su Leslie, 2016

Photo-montage; feather. Edited with Snapseed, Stackables, Fused and Pixlr. Su Leslie, 2016

You’ll find Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge at Lens and Pens by Sally.

Driven to abstraction

Monochrome, macro shot of pohutukawa leaf, edited with Snapseed, Pixlr and Stackables. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Pohutukawa leaf. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed, Pixlr and Stackables.

In nature, it is normal for all parts of an organism –and indeed an entire eco-system — to work harmoniously to ensure survival.

The veins in a leaf transport water and nutrients (1); the health of the plant depends on that flow. All parts of the leaf need water and minerals so they can transport sap back to the rest of the plant. Neglect, decay or disease in any part of the system affects the well-being of the whole.

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Pohutukawa leaves. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed, Pixlr and Stackables.

It’s a simple idea that we accept in nature, yet ignore when it comes to human lives and systems. We over-fish and pollute our oceans, dig up and burn fossil fuels, destroy rain forests and the thousands of species that live in them, build roads and cities over land that once produced food, contaminate our food and water supplies … the list seems endless.

We have forgotten the most elemental truth:

The Earth does not belong to us: we belong to the Earth. — Marlee Matlin

In these pohutukawa leaves we can see the connections and the journeys between every part of the structure. I can edit the images in many ways, but the relationship stays the same.  Survival of the whole depends on the health of all the parts.

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Pohutukawa leaves. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed, Pixlr and Stackables.

This post was written for Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge at Lens and Pens by Sally, and Ailsa’s Travel Theme at Where’s my Backpack. The theme in both cases is abstract.

(1) Leaf, Wikipedia.