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Abstract Photography

Abstract photography, also sometimes known as experimental photography, is the art of creating a visual effect with an image that has no immediate attachment to reality, by using processes like focusing, framing, or retouching and editing the photograph in post-processing. For example, an abstract picture can sometimes isolate a fragment of an ordinary image to remove it from its original context and give it a surrealist edge. It can also involve playing with blurring, shadows or lighting, textures or unexpected forms. The image is often created with traditional photographic material (analog or digital cameras, dark room, computer). However, artists can also manipulate and alter the film in order to achieve the desired effect.

The first images known as “abstract photographs" appeared shortly after the invention of photography in the 1830s. In 1842, John William Draper created a new type of images with a spectroscope. This machine dispersed light beams and produced a phenomenon that was previously invisible to the eye. The negatives he produced had nothing in common with the works of other photographers, and they opened the way for innovative photographic works. Draper perceived these images as a scientific discovery, not as artworks, but today his method is widely acclaimed by critics for its inherent originality.

In England, Anna Atkins was also a pioneer of abstract photography; she was the first one to place dry algae on cyanotype paper. This scientific experiment improved photographic techniques by creating unique blue and white images. Moreover, the discovery of X-ray and radioactivity in 1896 provoked a fascination for the invisible and many photographers were immediately drawn to these phenomena. French photographer Louis Darget attempted to capture mental processes by pressing unexposed plates to the foreheads of his and trying to get them to project images from their minds onto the plates. He carried out thousands of similar experiments.

It was only during the 20th century that abstract photography truly became recognised as an artistic practice. Surrealism and cubism started replacing impressionism, especially after the Salon d'Automne in 1903 in Paris. This event highlighted new talents like Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp… Ten years later, in New York, Wassily Kandinsky, Mondrian, Braque and Delaunay shocked audiences. The freedom coming from abstract art inspired some of the greatest photographers to break the rules.

Erwin Quedenfeldt exhibited the first abstract photographs in Cologne in 1914. From 1920 to 1930, Europe became the epicenters of conceptual photography with artists such as Jaroslav Rossler, Josef Sudeck, and Rössler exploring abstraction.

Post-processing became more central to photographic works in the 60s and the 70s, with artists like Josef Newman. Eventually, the growing popularity of computers in the 90s and the 2000s opened up infinite possibilities for creating original work. Some contemporary photographers like Peter Klasen, Dominic Harris, or Nicolas Dubreuille combine photography with other mediums.

Find them all on Artsper with our unique selection of abstract photographs.

Collector’s Guide: Collecting Fine Art Photographs

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price,500 facet,10503*Oeuvres d’artistes best sellers|icon-bestsellers*bestsellers facet,10503*Artworks by best-selling artists|icon-bestsellers*bestsellers facet,10503*Werke von Bestseller-Künstlern|icon-bestsellers*werke-von-kunstlern-bestseller facet,10503*Obras de los artistas más vendidos|icon-bestsellers*obras-de-los-artistas-mas-vendidos price,501:1000 price,1001:5000 facet,10500*Oeuvres d'artistes émergents|icon-youngtalents*jeunes-talents facet,10500*Young Talents|icon-youngtalents*youngtalents facet,10500*Obras de artistas emergentes|icon-youngtalents*obras-de-artistas-emergentes facet,10500*Werke aufstrebender Künstler|icon-youngtalents*werke-von-jungen-kunstlern category,6*Peinture*peinture category,6*Painting*painting category,6*Pintura*pintura category,6*Gemälde*gemalde facet,8259*Nos recommandations|icon-recommendations*recommandations facet,8259*Our recommendations|icon-recommendations*recommendations facet,8259*unsere Empfehlungen|icon-recommendations*unsere-empfehlungen facet,8259*Nuestras recomendaciones|icon-recommendations*nuestras-recomendaciones facet,8274*Moyen (\u003c 115 x 115 cm)|medium*moyen facet,1629*Abstraite*abstraite facet,1629*abstrakt*abstrakt facet,1629*abstracto*abstracto facet,1629*Abstract*abstract facet,10497*Oeuvres d'artistes célèbres|icon-masterpieces*artistes-celebres facet,10497*Artworks by famous artists|icon-masterpieces*masterpieces facet,10497*Werke berühmter Künstler|icon-masterpieces*werke-beruhmter-kunstler facet,10497*Obras de artistas famosos|icon-masterpieces*obras-de-artistas-famosos facet,8277*Grand (\u003c 200 x 200 cm)|large*grand facet,8277*Grand (\u003c 80 x 80 inch)|large*grand facet,1635*Street art*street-art facet,1635*Straßenkunst*street-art facet,1635*arte callejero*arte-callejero facet,1671*Landscape*nature facet,1671*Natur*natur facet,1671*Paysage*nature facet,1671*Nature*nature facet,1671*Naturaleza*naturaleza category,5*Sculpture*sculpture category,5*Skulptur*skulptur category,5*Escultura*escultura category,9*Fotografie*fotografie category,9*Photographie*photographie category,9*Photography*photography category,9*Fotografía*fotografia facet,1686*Pop Art*pop-art facet,1686*Pop-Art*pop-art facet,1686*Arte pop*arte-pop facet,8277*Large (\u003c 200 x 200 cm)|large*large facet,8277*Large (\u003c 80 x 80 inch)|large*large facet,1644*Porträt*portrat facet,1644*Portrait*portrait facet,1644*Retrato*retrato facet,1641*Nude*nude facet,1641*Akt*akte facet,1641*Nus*nus facet,1641*desnudos*desnudos price,1000:501 facet,8274*Medium (\u003c 115 x 115 cm)|medium*medium facet,8274*Medium (\u003c 45 x 45 inch)|medium*medium category,23*Dessin*dessin category,23*Zeichnung*zeichnung category,23*Dibujo*dibujo category,23*Fine Art Drawings*drawing facet,8280*Très grand (\u003e 200 x 200 cm)|very-large*tres-grand facet,8280*Très grand (\u003e 80 x 80 inch)|very-large*tres-grand category,15*Edition*edition category,15*Druck*editionen category,15*Print*print category,15*Edición*edicion facet,1830*Paysage|landscape*orientation-paysage facet,1830*Landscape|landscape*orientation-landscape facet,1830*Landschaft|landscape*orientation-landschaft facet,1830*Paisaje|landscape*orientation-paisaje facet,8301*Special offers|icon-promotions*promotions facet,8301*Trabajos en promoción|icon-promotions*trabajos-en-promocion facet,8301*Oeuvres en promotion|icon-promotions*promotions facet,8301*Special Offers|icon-promotions*vergunstigte-werke facet,8271*Petit (\u003c 50 x 50 cm)|small*petit facet,1827*Portrait|portrait*orientation-portrait facet,1827*Hochformat|portrait*orientation-portrat facet,1827*Retrato|portrait*orientation-retrato facet,1680*Animaux*animaux facet,1680*Animal*animal facet,1680*Animales*animales facet,1680*Tier*tier facet,1674*Scène de vie*scene-de-vie facet,1674*Everyday life*everyday-life facet,1674*Escena de la vida*escena-de-la-vida facet,1674*Etchleben*etchleben facet,1668*Black and white*black-and-white facet,1668*Schwarz und weiß*schwarz-und-weiss facet,1668*Noir et blanc*noir-et-blanc facet,1668*Blanco y negro*blanco-y-negro facet,1632*Architecture*architecture facet,1632*Die Architektur*die-architektur facet,1632*Arquitectura*arquitectura price,50001 facet,1659*Flore*flore facet,1659*Flora*flora facet,1659*Floral*floral facet,1659*Flores*flores facet,8280*Very large (\u003e 80 x 80 inch)|very-large*very-large facet,8280*Very large (\u003e 200 x 200 cm)|very-large*very-large price,5001:10000 facet,1650*Paysage urbain*paysage-urbain facet,1650*Urban Landscape*urban-landscape facet,1650*Paisaje urbano*paisaje-urbano facet,1650*Städtische Landschaft*stadtische-landschaft price,5000:1001 facet,12*noir|050002*noir facet,12*schwarz|050002*schwarz facet,12*Black|050002*black facet,12*negro|050002*negro facet,1692*Géométrique*geometrique facet,1692*Geometric*geometric facet,1692*Geometrisch*geometrisch facet,1692*Geometría*geometria price,10001:25000 facet,1656*Grafik*grafik facet,1656*Graphique*graphique facet,1656*Graphic*graphic facet,1656*Gráfico*grafico price,25001:50000 facet,30*Dark blue|0707BD*dark-blue facet,30*bleu foncé|0707BD*bleu-fonce facet,30*Dunkelblau|0707BD*dunkelblau facet,108*oil*oil facet,108*huile*huile facet,108*Öl*ol facet,108*al oleo*al-oleo
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