Mill Isle, Ireland

From Mill Isle, Ireland, a tradiional monochrome photographic artist specialises in abstract realism and the interplay of light and...

Ragman & Abstract Realism

Abstract Realism

Abstract realism ~ sufficiently realistic to be recognised but abstract to differentiate

Abstract: All good art is abstract in its structure. -Paul Strand

Realism: In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality. –Alfred Stieglitz

Line and Circumference

Theatres of Memory

Photographic images the origins of which are the long series of assemblages known as theatres of memory – with a proximity and overlapping to regroup scenes and events to different places and different times and different states of mind – it is the same way that our memory works.

Chairs In Shadow Talks


The place evoked is even more indeterminate, even more random it lacks scale and orientation. The term is used in the sense of focusing ones gaze on a point of an unlimited continuum. [If it were familiar would it have the same impact?]

The images which I have tended to capture fall into this assemblage genre. They are indulged as plays, dramas, performances in theatres of memory. They are looks observed, captured, recorded, sometimes scripted, then shown, performed on the stage of print media. [Mires: looks reflected as in a mirror] Perhaps it is indicative of how we look at life.

Bleu Alley Vannes

Realms of the abstract [abstract realism]

Photography is not about F-stops, film speeds or focal length, rather it is about images. And therefore unless we want our images to be imitations (mimicking others’ attempts) we ought to be pursuing interpretations. The negative is as the sketchbook and from there the artist sets out to produce a final image.

Just as the ratio within the area of a rectangle is calculable therefore it is rational since we have two sides of reference to calculate with; then theatres of memory will be irrational as dimensions are not easily obtained if we cannot determine scale or our view is disoriented. Thus are we saying that if dimensions are not defined then the output or outcome is not realisable or realistic? We apply sufficient realism to exercise logic but an additive of abstraction preserves a sense of intrigue.

A Walk Through The Shadows

In photographic terms we tend to reject or rather find it difficult to accept something which does not conform. Our knowledge of reference adjudges and categorises items into good or bad far too quickly; rather than realising that we ourselves may be restrictive since we have not gathered wide enough and varied enough information or experiences.

Take for example blur. How often do we see something which is blurred and out of focus and we dismiss it (as not being very good) (our polite way of saying it is bad).

Blur, out of focusness due to shallow depth of field is an inherent photographic condition and is an inherent optical condition that functions in the human eye. It is part of the everyday vision and perception but for the most part we are not aware of it as our eyes are constantly moving and are involved in selecting. We do not see blur unless we make a conscious effort to look for it.

If a photograph or piece of art has ever triggered a memory or recalled a mood it has been a performance in a theatre of memory, an event a place, a person, a time. Why is it that some images evoke memories and others do not?

42nd Motive

It is because certain shapes, colours, and lines are evocative and form strong relationships with spaces in our memory storage system.
They stand for specific thoughts, themes, and emotions which we have gathered like ragman’s riches – discarded but snatched and revived over time.

Tones; warm tones meaning strength, action and movement; cool tones evoke thoughts of tranquillity, calm, stability and often mystery; colour has a fundamental impact on how we react to an image.

Lines and shapes; add feeling to an image, their direction and placement establishes dynamic or passive moods. I strive to use photographic components or elements as angles, triangles, verticals, horizontals, diagonals and radicals

Music is related to themes but so is décor. If theme is the key to arranging all the elements at your disposal then the image making of photography is just as relevant an art as painting, music or décor. The creation of theme in image making is learning to communicate the visual language of emotion.

When you want to express a theme for a film the composer is called upon, on this occasion the lyrics are not important. Try to remove all objects and details that don’t contribute to the message. Simplicity and unity the key to creating captivating images, to remove something is not to subtract but abstract. In photography when our creative art is formed round scenes or subjects or objects then it is impossible to remove them altogether from the image instead we reveal less.

Photography is not about F-stops, film speeds or focal length, rather it is about images. Therefore unless we want our images to be imitations (mimicking others’ attempts) we ought to be pursuing interpretations.

Abstract realism is reducing from the original object sufficient to differentiate it but retaining just enough revealing only a little to make it just recognisable but requiring a little bit of work on behalf of the viewer intellect to realise what is, or to provide interpretation.

A Dark Agenda

This makes it a two way communication. Instead of repetitive wallpaper photography the viewer is confronted with something they may have to contemplate, to struggle with, to engage their intellect and reasoning. The image is intriguing it invites the viewer audience to participate – what is it? …. etc.

[Essence] ~ [Image > Idea > Intrigue > Intellect > Interpretation = Involvement]

When you abstract the essential elements of your subject and effectively present your theme you will be an effective communicator (but not necessarily a better photographer). Besides there are plenty of photographers out there – and plenty of artists – just not enough good photographic artists!

Shadows from a Victorian Hallway


Journal Comments

  • Agnes McGuinness
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