Abstract Photography

When looking at abstract photographs the first thought one have is “what is that?”. Abstract photography is about trying to make sense about the pictures which seem to be kind of surreal.

In Lyle Rexer’s book “The Edge of Vision – The Rise of Abstraction in Photography”, abstract photography is explained as pictures about the unseen things, about seeing what human eyes normally cannot see.

In one of his chapter, Rexer goes into the 1960s-1990s abstract photography which is called “subversive”. Subversive photography are non objective images where the orthodoxy of photography is shattered. Photographers began playing with techniques not only with montages but with how to develop photographs. Rexer describes it as bringing “new light into the darkroom” and refers to the double exposure technique.

Within this age of photography (and this book) I found two interesting photographers: Jack Sal and James Welling.
Jack Sal works in his photographs among others with installations. They represent the elements of classical photography and their development: paper, salt, metal, light and time. Especially the architectural/geometrical elements illustrate the steel’s limited existence.


James Welling’s work range from documentary and staged to nonrepresentional photography. With this he tries to criticise the representation of photography during the modern age of abstract photography. His mystery photographs constrain the viewer to read the pictures both in an abstract and documentary sense. His pictures are all about seeing and about guessing what it is. The beauty in his photographs lies within the possibility of what can be seen and what is recognized.


REXER, L., 2013. The edge of vision: The rise of abstraction in photography. New York, NY: Aperture

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