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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 # 202002, Photography

Paul Snell

Bleed # 202002, 2020
70.9 x 45.3 inch
Photography

$6,770

Bernhard Lang, Coal_mines_east_001, Photography

Bernhard Lang

Coal_mines_east_001, 2020
35.4 x 47.2 x 1.2 inch
Photography

$2,517

Serge Hamad, Temporal Perception #125, Photography

Serge Hamad

Temporal Perception #125, 2019
45 x 60 inch
Photography

$3,600

Lisa Toboz, Ghost Story, Photography

Lisa Toboz

Ghost Story, 2020
9.4 x 7.9 x 0 inch
Photography

$481

Shauna La, Forest, Photography

Shauna La

Forest, 2021
10 x 10 inch
Photography

$400

Shinji Nagabe, Objets saisis n07, Photography

Shinji Nagabe

Objets saisis n07, 2018
13.4 x 13.4 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$538

Clare Marie Bailey, Other Side of the Eye, Photography

Clare Marie Bailey

Other Side of the Eye, 2019
15.7 x 15.7 x 0 inch
Photography

$632

Steven Rudin, Party in Patchogue, Photography

Steven Rudin

Party in Patchogue, 2018
52 x 56 x 3 inch
Photography

5,000 - $ 10,000

Mohamed Yakub, Oculus Series 225, Photography

Mohamed Yakub

Oculus Series 225, 2021
24 x 41 inch
Photography

$2,500

Personne, Jeudi des cendres, Photography

Personne

Jeudi des cendres, 2021
6.9 x 9.1 x 0 inch
Photography

$114

Bertrand Gruyer, Window - 07, Photography

Bertrand Gruyer

Window - 07, 2020
23.6 x 18.9 inch
Photography

$949

Thierry Dubrunfaut, Fire 1108, Photography

Thierry Dubrunfaut

Fire 1108, 2019
61 x 106.3 x 1 inch
Photography

$17,706

Marek Boguszak, Deep in Thoughts, Photography

Marek Boguszak

Deep in Thoughts, 2020
43.3 x 32.3 inch
Photography

$4,806

Gina Vor, Prussian Blue 4, Photography

Gina Vor

Prussian Blue 4, 2020
11.7 x 8.3 x 0 inch
Photography

$139

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

Angeles Peña

Hielos de San Rafael (Patagonia), 2015
39 x 27.5 x 0.1 inch
Photography

$500

Richard Caldicott, Chance/Fall (4), Photography

Richard Caldicott

Chance/Fall (4), 2010
50 x 40.2 inch
Photography

$12,216

Joëlle Acoulon, 24 février 2018, Photography

Joëlle Acoulon

24 février 2018, 2018
23.6 x 27.6 inch
Photography

$936

Tenesh Webber, Spiral II, Photography

Tenesh Webber

Spiral II, 2001
20 x 20 inch
Photography

$4,121

Jérémie Lenoir, #6561087, Salt lake, Photography

Jérémie Lenoir

#6561087, Salt lake, 2017
31.5 x 31.5 x 0.2 inch
Photography

$3,541

Our recommendations Konstantin Kornakov, Codes esthétiques 0373, Photography

Konstantin Kornakov

Codes esthétiques 0373, 2015
23.6 x 17.7 inch
Photography

$885

Luuk De Haan, Wellicht 3, Photography

Luuk De Haan

Wellicht 3, 2013
11.7 x 8.3 inch
Photography

$662

Seb Janiak, Gravity liquid 58 (Large), Photography

Seb Janiak

Gravity liquid 58 (Large), 2015
63 x 49.4 inch
Photography

$8,831

Venelina Katanska, Syngonia caldera, Photography

Venelina Katanska

Syngonia caldera, 2018
27.6 x 18.5 inch
Photography

$354

Tiantian Xu, L'encre dansant : février, Photography

Tiantian Xu

L'encre dansant : février, 2014
39.4 x 39.4 inch
Photography

$2,782

Jason Engelund, Feel, Canyon Road (Abstract photography), Photography

Jason Engelund

Feel, Canyon Road (Abstract photography), 2020
20.1 x 16.1 inch
Photography

$1,030

Gianfranco Pezzot, VIII: The Unselfconsciousness Of Eros, Photography

Gianfranco Pezzot

VIII: The Unselfconsciousness Of Eros, 2017
94.5 x 70.9 inch
Photography

$20,017

Daniel Nikolic, Melankolia N°44, Photography

Daniel Nikolic

Melankolia N°44, 2017
19.7 x 19.7 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$354

Pierre Lan, Beauté de la résilience #2, Photography

Pierre Lan

Beauté de la résilience #2, 2020
19.7 x 29.9 inch
Photography

$1,075

James Godman, 070425, Photography

James Godman

070425, 2007
36 x 36 inch
Photography

$1,619

Valérie Gho, Cyanotype numéro 6, Photography

Valérie Gho

Cyanotype numéro 6, 2018
7.9 x 7.9 inch
Photography

$304

Olivier Liégent, Canonus de caelo, Photography

Olivier Liégent

Canonus de caelo, 2014
20.1 x 35.4 x 0.8 inch
Photography

$1,897

Paula Guagliardi, Wet Cyan I, Photography

Paula Guagliardi

Wet Cyan I, 2020
27.6 x 19.7 x 0.2 inch
Photography

$400

Mladen Yordanov, Still Life - Sculpture - 1, Photography

Mladen Yordanov

Still Life - Sculpture - 1, 2020
21.7 x 17.7 inch
Photography

$367

Gérard Allaguillemette, Immobilités #04, Photography

Gérard Allaguillemette

Immobilités #04, 2019
7.9 x 59.1 x 0.1 inch
Photography

$316

Robert Charles Mann, Solargraph 20180621-13, Photography

Robert Charles Mann

Solargraph 20180621-13, 2018
23.6 x 33.1 inch
Photography

$5,059

Strahil Penev, Total Screen II, Photography

Strahil Penev

Total Screen II, 2021
30.7 x 22.4 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$620

Marie-Laure Possovre, Prairie, Photography

Marie-Laure Possovre

Prairie, 2019
11.8 x 23.6 inch
Photography

$231

Dusan Racko, Chromosome Gem, Photography

Dusan Racko

Chromosome Gem, 2018
18.9 x 23.6 inch
Photography

$324

Kohey Kanno, Invisible Memories #2, Photography

Kohey Kanno

Invisible Memories #2, 2018
23.4 x 16.5 x 1.6 inch
Photography

$2,403

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

Laetitia Lesaffre

De-Sol-Es, enfance exilée n°1, 2017
19.7 x 19.7 x 1.6 inch
Photography

$1,138

Peter Marhavy, Plants can bleed too, Photography

Peter Marhavy

Plants can bleed too, 2017
15.7 x 23.6 inch
Photography

$278

Damien De Bellis, Belly's Pollens, Photography

Damien De Bellis

Belly's Pollens, 2018
27.6 x 27.6 inch
Photography

$521

Aleksandros Kanellopoulos, Alien, Photography

Aleksandros Kanellopoulos

Alien, 2017
27.6 x 19.7 inch
Photography

$382

Robertas Ursache, The Surface, Photography

Robertas Ursache

The Surface, 2019
15.7 x 15.7 inch
Photography

$231

Michael K. Yamaoka, The Red Bench, Photography

Michael K. Yamaoka

The Red Bench, 2016
36 x 24 x 0.1 inch
Photography

$4,500

Arthur Hent, Self-Portrait 20.62, Photography

Arthur Hent

Self-Portrait 20.62, 2020
15.7 x 11.8 x 1 inch
Photography

$759

Our recommendations Cat Soubbotnik, Longueur d'ondes, Photography

Cat Soubbotnik

Longueur d'ondes, 2012
66.1 x 63 x 1.2 inch
Photography

$8,600

Tony Soulié, Sans titre, Photography

Tony Soulié

Sans titre, 2020
15.7 x 19.7 inch
Photography

$3,415

Victoire d'Harcourt, Swimming Pool Palm Trees, Photography

Victoire d'Harcourt

Swimming Pool Palm Trees, 2020
47.2 x 70.9 x 0.8 inch
Photography

$5,691

Marie-Fa Lazzari, Galaxie, Photography

Marie-Fa Lazzari

Galaxie, 2015
10.6 x 15 inch
Photography

$405

Natasha Zupan, Eternal Recurrence #63, Photo collage with intervention by the artist, Photography

Natasha Zupan

Eternal Recurrence #63, Photo collage with intervention by the artist, 2015
60 x 48 x 0.1 inch
Photography

$6,000

Michael Kenna, Torii Hokaido, Photography

Michael Kenna

Torii Hokaido, 1989
9.8 x 7.9 x 1.2 inch
Photography

$6,956

Our recommendations Petros Chrisostomou, Myriad (10-61 Jackson Avenue), Photography

Petros Chrisostomou

Myriad (10-61 Jackson Avenue), 2013
39.4 x 31.5 x 1.2 inch
Photography

$5,691

Jenny Owens, Fossils - post house 002, Photography

Jenny Owens

Fossils - post house 002, 2019
5.3 x 7.9 x 0.1 inch
Photography

$443

Jean-Paul Baret, N°1150, Photography

Jean-Paul Baret

N°1150, 2017
23.6 x 23.6 inch
Photography

$525

Ana Popescu, XI Serie I have been there, Photography

Ana Popescu

XI Serie I have been there, 2021
7.9 x 5.9 x 1.6 inch
Photography

$506

Eduard Boev, Fireworks of colours, Photography

Eduard Boev

Fireworks of colours, 2020
24 x 30 x 1 inch
Photography

$1,500

Our recommendations Barnaby Irish, Deep Field 1, Photography

Barnaby Irish

Deep Field 1, 2019
15 x 11.2 inch
Photography

$822

Hein Gravenhorst, Wellenelement multiple Rotation, Photography

Hein Gravenhorst

Wellenelement multiple Rotation, 1966
19.7 x 19.7 inch
Photography

$18,971

Yannick Fournié, Blue Mood 4, Photography

Yannick Fournié

Blue Mood 4, 2021
41.7 x 55.1 x 0.8 inch
Photography

$3,162

Jesse Willems, Pocketful of spring (Left), Photography

Jesse Willems

Pocketful of spring (Left), 2018
50 x 34.1 x 0 inch
Photography

$4,427

Sylvia Rime, Ying Yang, Photography

Sylvia Rime

Ying Yang, 2018
31.5 x 31.5 inch
Photography

$759

Roman Koenig, Serie New World #3, Photography

Roman Koenig

Serie New World #3, 2016
35.4 x 23.6 x 2 inch
Photography

$1,265

Anna Lazareva, Metaphysical Body Landscapes #4, Photography

Anna Lazareva

Metaphysical Body Landscapes #4, 2018
11.4 x 20.9 inch
Photography

$329

60 Artworks on 1913

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