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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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Paul Snell, Bleed # 202021, Photography

Paul Snell

Bleed # 202021, 2021
80 x 300 cm
Photography

€7,163

Elizabeth Kunoth Kngwarreye, Yam seeds in my grandmother’s country, Photography

Elizabeth Kunoth Kngwarreye

Yam seeds in my grandmother’s country, 2020
180 x 120 x 3 cm
Photography

€32,000

Gisela Gaffoglio, Energía vital, Photography

Gisela Gaffoglio

Energía vital, 2021
90 x 70 x 2 cm
Photography

€1,600

Serge Hamad, Himmel #3, Photography

Serge Hamad

Himmel #3, 2018
101.6 x 76.2 cm
Photography

€3,094

Jean-Robert Franco, Mangia, mangia, Photography

Jean-Robert Franco

Mangia, mangia, 2021
80 x 80 x 1 cm
Photography

€800

Linda Chapman, Drawn Light, Photography

Linda Chapman

Drawn Light, 2020
40 x 40 x 0.1 cm
Photography

€695

Petr Strnad, Circle Grammar #2, Photography

Petr Strnad

Circle Grammar #2, 2021
45.8 x 45.2 x 0.1 cm
Photography

€270

Christophe Gadea, Kiwi, Photography

Christophe Gadea

Kiwi, 2021
40 x 40 x 1 cm
Photography

€1,300

Carter Mull, Pascal’s Wager (Dream of a Perfect Life), Photography

Carter Mull

Pascal’s Wager (Dream of a Perfect Life), 2004
63.5 x 82.6 x 50 cm
Photography

€6,875

Anja Diabaté, Metamorphosis II, Photography

Anja Diabaté

Metamorphosis II, 2021
60 x 40 x 3 cm
Photography

€2,500

Gina Vor, Prussian Blue 4, Photography

Gina Vor

Prussian Blue 4, 2020
29.7 x 21 x 0.1 cm
Photography

€110

Mihaela Ivanova, Winter wind II, Photography

Mihaela Ivanova

Winter wind II, 2012
50 x 50 x 0.2 cm
Photography

€610

Angeles Peña, Hielos de San Rafael (Patagonia), Photography

Angeles Peña

Hielos de San Rafael (Patagonia), 2015
99.1 x 69.9 x 0.3 cm
Photography

€430

Venelina Katanska, Divine, Photography

Venelina Katanska

Divine, 2015
90 x 135 cm
Photography

€450

Richard Caldicott, Untitled 109, Photography

Richard Caldicott

Untitled 109, 1999
36 x 28 cm
Photography

€1,194

Jason Engelund, Go, Photography

Jason Engelund

Go, 2021
50.8 x 40.6 x 0.1 cm
Photography

€1,015

Luuk De Haan, Nine Rectangles 1, Photography

Luuk De Haan

Nine Rectangles 1, 2017
49.5 x 42 cm
Photography

€1,612

Our recommendations Konstantin Kornakov, Codes esthétiques 0373, Photography

Konstantin Kornakov

Codes esthétiques 0373, 2015
60 x 45 cm
Photography

€609 €700

Patrick Chappert-Gaujal, Sans titre, Photography

Patrick Chappert-Gaujal

Sans titre, 2018
94 x 74 x 0.2 cm
Photography

€1,700

Joëlle Acoulon, 24 février 2018, Photography

Joëlle Acoulon

24 février 2018, 2018
60 x 70 cm
Photography

€740

Jérémie Lenoir, #6561087, Salt lake, Photography

Jérémie Lenoir

#6561087, Salt lake, 2017
80 x 80 x 0.5 cm
Photography

€2,800

Mladen Yordanov, Still Life 3, Photography

Mladen Yordanov

Still Life 3, 2020
66 x 94.5 cm
Photography

€670

Tenesh Webber, Passing Through 1, Photography

Tenesh Webber

Passing Through 1, 2021
50.8 x 50.8 cm
Photography

€3,044

Strahil Penev, Total Screen II, Photography

Strahil Penev

Total Screen II, 2021
78 x 57 x 1 cm
Photography

€490

James Godman, 070425, Photography

James Godman

070425, 2007
91.5 x 91.5 cm
Photography

€1,313

Laetitia Lesaffre, De-Sol-Es, enfance exilée n°1, Photography

Laetitia Lesaffre

De-Sol-Es, enfance exilée n°1, 2017
50 x 50 x 4 cm
Photography

€900

Seb Janiak, Gravity Bulle d'air 01, Photography

Seb Janiak

Gravity Bulle d'air 01, 2013
110 x 86 cm
Photography

€5,253

Tiantian Xu, L'encre dansant : février, Photography

Tiantian Xu

L'encre dansant : février, 2014
100 x 100 cm
Photography

€2,200

Robertas Ursache, A flower within a flower, Photography

Robertas Ursache

A flower within a flower, 2017
30 x 30 cm
Photography

€95

Basilio Giangreco, This is not a starry night, Photography

Basilio Giangreco

This is not a starry night, 2020
26 x 40 cm
Photography

€110

Marie-Laure Possovre, Prairie, Photography

Marie-Laure Possovre

Prairie, 2019
30 x 60 cm
Photography

€110

Dusan Racko, Chromosome Gem, Photography

Dusan Racko

Chromosome Gem, 2018
48 x 60 cm
Photography

€266

Olivier Liégent, Canonus de caelo, Photography

Olivier Liégent

Canonus de caelo, 2014
51 x 90 x 2 cm
Photography

€1,500

Axel Cournac, Les Amours d'Yvette, Photography

Axel Cournac

Les Amours d'Yvette, 2020
30 x 20 cm
Photography

€80

Pierre Lan, Beauté de la résilience #2, Photography

Pierre Lan

Beauté de la résilience #2, 2020
50 x 76 cm
Photography

€850

Gianfranco Pezzot, IX: Genesi, Photography

Gianfranco Pezzot

IX: Genesi, 2017
240 x 180 cm
Photography

€16,237

Peter Marhavy, Plants can bleed too, Photography

Peter Marhavy

Plants can bleed too, 2017
40 x 60 cm
Photography

€228

Damien De Bellis, Belly's Pollens, Photography

Damien De Bellis

Belly's Pollens, 2018
70 x 70 cm
Photography

€230

Aleksandros Kanellopoulos, Alien, Photography

Aleksandros Kanellopoulos

Alien, 2017
70 x 50 cm
Photography

€170

Zigmunds Orlovskis, Microbial Map of Middle Earth, Photography

Zigmunds Orlovskis

Microbial Map of Middle Earth, 2019
40 x 40 cm
Photography

€100

Philippe Piccardi, Le chaos est une structure, Photography

Philippe Piccardi

Le chaos est une structure, 2017
60 x 60 cm
Photography

€175

Valérie Gho, Cyanotype numéro 6, Photography

Valérie Gho

Cyanotype numéro 6, 2018
20 x 20 cm
Photography

€240

Gérard Allaguillemette, Immobilités #04, Photography

Gérard Allaguillemette

Immobilités #04, 2019
20 x 150 x 0.2 cm
Photography

€250

Robert Charles Mann, Solargraph 20180621-13, Photography

Robert Charles Mann

Solargraph 20180621-13, 2018
60 x 84 cm
Photography

€4,000

Arthur Hent, Self-Portrait 20.62, Photography

Arthur Hent

Self-Portrait 20.62, 2020
40 x 30 x 2.5 cm
Photography

€600

Sophie Derrick, Close to nothing (Pink), Photography

Sophie Derrick

Close to nothing (Pink), 2015
42 x 30 x 8 cm
Photography

€1,433

Lilia El Golli, Corruption(s) – La Plume, Photography

Lilia El Golli

Corruption(s) – La Plume, 2015
40 x 60 cm
Photography

€863

Jacques Bosser, Oro, Photography

Jacques Bosser

Oro, 2019
9 x 18 x 4 cm
Photography

€700

Sylvia Rime, Ying Yang, Photography

Sylvia Rime

Ying Yang, 2018
80 x 80 cm
Photography

€600

Our recommendations Jean-Paul Baret, N°2064, Photography

Jean-Paul Baret

N°2064, 2018
100 x 65 cm
Photography

€745

Shinji Nagabe, Objets saisis n07, Photography

Shinji Nagabe

Objets saisis n07, 2018
34 x 34 x 1 cm
Photography

€425

Jean-Claude Byandb, Apparition() Disparition, Photography

Jean-Claude Byandb

Apparition() Disparition, 2015
60 x 45 x 0.1 cm
Photography

€610

Laurence Winram, Contemplation, Photography

Laurence Winram

Contemplation, 2011
84.1 x 59.4 x 0.2 cm
Photography

€573

Imagilaire, Dcsq by BTNHMCRWL (Amsterdam), Photography

Imagilaire

Dcsq by BTNHMCRWL (Amsterdam), 2019
60 x 60 x 0.5 cm
Photography

€800

Josef Nadj, Untitled #10, Photography

Josef Nadj

Untitled #10, 2012
25 x 30 cm
Photography

€1,100

Our recommendations Cat Soubbotnik, Longueur d'ondes, Photography

Cat Soubbotnik

Longueur d'ondes, 2012
168 x 160 x 3 cm
Photography

€6,800

Tony Soulié, Sans titre, Photography

Tony Soulié

Sans titre, 2020
40 x 50 cm
Photography

€2,700

Victoire d'Harcourt, A l'Infini, Photography

Victoire d'Harcourt

A l'Infini, 2019
120 x 180 cm
Photography

€4,500

Yumi Watanabe, Petals-After Image of Love, Photography

Yumi Watanabe

Petals-After Image of Love, 2017
25 x 25 x 10 cm
Photography

€500

Hein Gravenhorst, Light Reflex - Rotation 5, Photography

Hein Gravenhorst

Light Reflex - Rotation 5, 1965
30 x 30 cm
Photography

€1,350 €1,500

Catherine Leutenegger, Slice 001b, Failed 3D-printed Cross Section of a Human Torso, Top, Photography

Catherine Leutenegger

Slice 001b, Failed 3D-printed Cross Section of a Human Torso, Top, 2015
50 x 65 cm
Photography

€2,000

Roman Koenig, Serie New World #3, Photography

Roman Koenig

Serie New World #3, 2016
90 x 60 x 5 cm
Photography

€1,000

Our recommendations Barnaby Irish, Deep Field 1, Photography

Barnaby Irish

Deep Field 1, 2019
38 x 28.5 cm
Photography

€650

Nagsoul, Gina (Butts and crotches), Photography

Nagsoul

Gina (Butts and crotches), 2020
60 x 40 cm
Photography

€390

60 Artworks on 2142

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