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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*Werke von Bestseller-Künstlern|icon-bestsellers*werke-von-kunstlern-bestseller facet,10503*Oeuvres d’artistes best sellers|icon-bestsellers*bestsellers facet,10503*Artworks by best-selling artists|icon-bestsellers*bestsellers facet,10503*Obras de los artistas más vendidos|icon-bestsellers*obras-de-los-artistas-mas-vendidos price,501:1000 facet,10500*Young Talents|icon-youngtalents*youngtalents facet,10500*Oeuvres d'artistes émergents|icon-youngtalents*jeunes-talents facet,10500*Werke von aufstrebenden Künstlern|icon-youngtalents*werke-von-jungen-kunstlern 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*Painting*painting category,6*Gemälde*gemalde category,6*Peinture*peinture category,6*Pintura*pintura facet,1629*Abstraite*abstraite facet,1629*abstracto*abstracto facet,1629*abstrakt*abstrakt facet,1629*Abstract*abstract facet,8259*Our recommendations|icon-recommendations*recommendations facet,8259*Nos recommandations|icon-recommendations*recommandations facet,8259*unsere Empfehlungen|icon-recommendations*unsere-empfehlungen facet,8259*Nuestras recomendaciones|icon-recommendations*nuestras-recomendaciones price,1001:5000 facet,8274*Moyen (\u003c 115 x 115 cm)*moyen facet,8274*Moyen (\u003c 115 x 115 cm)|medium*moyen facet,8274*Moyen (\u003c 45 x 45 inch)|medium*moyen facet,10497*Werke berühmter Künstler|icon-masterpieces*werke-beruhmter-kunstler facet,10497*Obras de artistas famosos|icon-masterpieces*obras-de-artistas-famosos facet,10497*Oeuvres d'artistes célèbres|icon-masterpieces*artistes-celebres facet,10497*Artworks by famous artists|icon-masterpieces*masterpieces facet,8277*Grand (\u003c 200 x 200 cm)|large*grand facet,8277*Grand (\u003c 200 x 200 cm)*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 category,5*Sculpture*sculpture category,5*Skulptur*skulptur category,5*Escultura*escultura category,9*Photography*photography category,9*Photographie*photographie category,9*Fotografía*fotografia category,9*Fotografie*fotografie facet,1686*Pop Art*pop-art facet,1686*Pop-Art*pop-art facet,1686*Arte pop*arte-pop facet,1671*Nature*nature facet,1671*Natur*natur facet,1671*Naturaleza*naturaleza facet,1644*Portrait*portrait facet,1644*Retrato*retrato facet,1644*Porträt*portrat price,1000:501 facet,1641*Nude*nude facet,1641*Akt*akte facet,1641*Nus*nus facet,1641*desnudos*desnudos facet,1827*Portrait*orientation-portrait facet,1827*Retrato|portrait*orientation-retrato facet,1827*Portrait|portrait*orientation-portrait facet,1827*Hochformat|portrait*orientation-portrat facet,1827*Retrato*orientation-retrato category,23*Dessin*dessin category,23*Fine Art Drawings*drawing category,23*Zeichnung*zeichnung category,23*Dibujo*dibujo facet,8277*Large (\u003c 80 x 80 inch)*large facet,8277*Large (\u003c 200 x 200 cm)*large facet,8277*Large (\u003c 80 x 80 inch)|large*large facet,8277*Large (\u003c 200 x 200 cm)|large*large facet,8280*Très grand (\u003e 200 x 200 cm)*tres-grand 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*Print*print category,15*Druck*editionen category,15*Edición*edicion facet,8301*Oeuvres en promotion|icon-promotions*promotions facet,8301*Special offers|icon-promotions*promotions facet,8301*Special Offers|icon-promotions*vergunstigte-werke facet,8301*Trabajos en promoción|icon-promotions*trabajos-en-promocion facet,1830*Paysage*orientation-paysage facet,1830*Landschaft*orientation-landschaft facet,1830*Landscape*orientation-landscape 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,1674*Everyday life*everyday-life facet,1674*Scène de vie*scene-de-vie facet,1674*Etchleben*etchleben facet,1674*Escena de la vida*escena-de-la-vida facet,8274*Medium (\u003c 115 x 115 cm)*medium facet,8274*Medium (\u003c 45 x 45 inch)*medium facet,8274*Medium (\u003c 45 x 45 inch)|medium*medium facet,8274*Medium (\u003c 115 x 115 cm)|medium*medium facet,1680*Tier*tier facet,1680*Animal*animal facet,1680*Animaux*animaux facet,1680*Animales*animales facet,8271*Petit (\u003c 50 x 50 cm)|small*petit facet,8271*Petit (\u003c 50 x 50 cm)*petit facet,8271*Petit (\u003c 20 x 20 inch)|small*petit facet,1668*Black and white*black-and-white facet,1668*Noir et blanc*noir-et-blanc facet,1668*Schwarz und weiß*schwarz-und-weiss facet,1668*Blanco y negro*blanco-y-negro facet,8280*Very large (\u003e 200 x 200 cm)*very-large facet,8280*Very large (\u003e 80 x 80 inch)*very-large facet,8280*Very large (\u003e 200 x 200 cm)|very-large*very-large facet,8280*Very large (\u003e 80 x 80 inch)|very-large*very-large facet,1632*Architecture*architecture facet,1632*Die Architektur*die-architektur facet,1632*Arquitectura*arquitectura price,5001:10000 facet,1650*Paysage urbain*paysage-urbain facet,1650*Städtische Landschaft*stadtische-landschaft facet,1650*Urban Landscape*urban-landscape facet,1650*Paisaje urbano*paisaje-urbano facet,1659*Flore*flore facet,1659*Flora*flora facet,1659*Floral*floral facet,1659*Flores*flores price,50001 price,10001:25000 facet,1692*Géométrique*geometrique facet,1692*Geometric*geometric facet,1692*Geometrisch*geometrisch facet,1692*Geometría*geometria facet,12*noir|050002*noir facet,12*Black|050002*black facet,12*schwarz|050002*schwarz facet,12*negro|050002*negro facet,42*Rouge|FC2912*rouge facet,42*Red|FC2912*red facet,42*rot|FC2912*rot facet,42*Rojo|FC2912*rojo facet,1656*Graphic*graphic facet,1656*Graphique*graphique facet,1656*Gráfico*grafico facet,1656*Grafik*grafik facet,108*Öl*ol facet,108*huile*huile facet,108*oil*oil facet,108*al oleo*al-oleo facet,126*acrylique*acrylique facet,126*Acryl-*acryl facet,126*acrylic*acrylic facet,126*acrílico*acrilico price,25001:50000
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