Can a photo be abstract?

Time itself is garbed in manner that wears on every social aspect that it may brush upon. The spoken word of English scarce ‘scape it’s abrasive nature. Life and society rains down rasping, clawing, desperations of expression that in their misinterpretation of the vernacular, doth bear its weight on true meaning, and erode the very words of our monarchy.

St Paul's cathedral in a puddle

St Paul’s cathedral in a puddle – Olympus E-420

Or something like that… but basically; words aren’t wot they used to be. Everything is awesome or fantastic… or gross and so on. As the world finds more voices, volume is spoken through extremities, and the cutting edge of our dialect becomes blunt.

The photographic world has an ever expanding library of taxonomies and categorisations. You only have to look at photo sharing sites like 500px or Flickr so see how images are sorted and sub-sorted. 500px in particular has a list of 28. Quite brave of them. Some seem variants of others (such as travel and transport) whereas “fine art” tends to raise an eyebrow. An of course there’s “Abstract”

Ansel Adams believed that photography simply can’t be Abstract. That, through its science, photography is physically tied to the real. Therefore whatever cropped shadows we frame, they are merely chosen segments of reality…. or at least, that’s my take on what he said.

And in some very particular sense, I agree. BUT… and this is a very bold and brave “but” (Mr Adams was a frickin’ genius no doubt), there’s a corner of my relatively young mind that considers the bastard nature of the photographic crop itself.

Everything in a photographic frame is democratically equal. The camera will give every millimeter equal attention (whether we focus on it or not). But a photograph doesn’t capture life. We point a square tube, and prejudiciously crop the edges of the world away. in an unnatural square, anti-earth way. That squaring off, of the real world is in itself, to some small degree… in my simplistic, uneducated opnion… Abstract.

Colourful reflection in puddle in China Town, London

Double yellow puddle – Sony A6000 and SEL35f18

I won’t quote the dictionary definition of Abstract here. What does the dictionary know anymore – it’s been known to say “Cowabunga”. I’m sure the word Abstract once had regal meaning and has since taken a kicking over time. Very likely in Ansel’s glorious days he enjoyed purities of more than just Yellowstone National Park, but also could rely on the language he spoke too.

We all take photos the way we all think they’re meant to look. Breaking that habit and aspiring to capturing something “un” or “hyper” real could at least be worthy of the aspiration of Abstract art* (I’m guessing that the “art” part is inherent).

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