Jessica Maleski

August 5, 2019

Abstract photography is definitely an acquired appreciation. It’s difficult enough convincing people that abstract art can be beautiful and meaningful let alone work done by a camera. People expect photos to be straight-forward, no-nonsense representations of reality.

From the beginning though, I was drawn to the more abstract elements of photography. The colors, the forms that light and shadow create and the beauty that comes from the juxtaposition of those elements in contrast and unison with each other.

The photo of the calla lilies is a perfect example. The light ethereal blue in between the creamy white reminds me of lace curtains opening up to a cool spring sky. The beautiful s-curves of the petal structure accents the movement of the eye through the image. And the shadow of a neighboring calla lily onto the center of the image adds a depth that surprised me when I finally figured out what the dark area was.

Maybe I read too much into these things — but the freedom to let your imagination run with the image is the freedom of abstract photography. The discipline is in creating an image that not only keeps your eyes in the frame but gives them a framework to follow around the image. It gives them a structure that your mind can begin to work on to puzzle out meaning.

But meaning is not the purpose. There is a truth to the image but it is a truth that is revealed in its adherence to its own integrity. In being true to itself, the clarity of the image is its own beauty. I’m badly paraphrasing Aquinas here — but I’m attempting to say that the work is its own good and in being true to the form of abstract photography it is beautiful.

Two guidelines are helpful here:

  1. A mystery is not a problem to be solved but a gift to be pondered.
  2. Never seek a visual answer for a verbal puzzle.
I don’t really recall the exact origin of the two quotes. The first one came from an Orthodox blog (I think?) but its religious truth is also at the heart of the more photography related second quote. As a visual person, it’s something that I get intuitively. Just allow the image to be. Just allow the moment to be. God, after all, is in the now. But that’s the harder truth to live.
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