“There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.”
- Ansel Adams
When photography was first created it was used primarily for portraits. It was not yet mobile and therefore could not yet be used in genres like landscape or journalism. Portrait painters at the time felt that photography was not legitimately artistic, and this spurred the "Pictorialist" photographic movement. In defense of their art, Pictorialists depicted subjects with soft visual effects and artistic poses. At the beginning of the twentieth century a man named Paul Strand countered the "Pictorialist" movement stating that it was too apologetic, and did not take advantage of the new medium.
Paul Strand was an American Modernist photographer leading the drive to establish photography as a valid form of fine art. However, he did not believe that all forms of photography held artistic value. His argument was based on the idea - central to modernist art, of 'truth of materials'. Strand believed that photography had to be 'based on inherent qualities' of the 'medium' and work with the 'true laws of photography'.
US photo-modernism, identified with Edward Weston and Ansel Adams, followed the path marked out by Strand and the later Stieglitz. Painterly subjects and effects were ditched for sharp focused precise photographs.
"At every turn the attempt is made to turn the camera into a brush, to make the photograph look like a painting, an etching, a charcoal drawing or whatnot, like anything but a photograph..." - Paul Strand
It was not until the past few decades that photographers began to challenge these rules that had been set out for photography. Artists began to explore new technologies and techniques to create photographic works that were abstracted. Photographers began to create a new visual language in photography by using depth of field and focus to blur parts of or entire images. A small selection of some of the leading photographers of today who work in this style:
Here on DeviantArt many photographers are exploring these ideas and creating beautiful works that are reliant on the lack of sharpness and focus in order to convey a thought or emotion. Here is a small selection of some of these artists:
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Questions for the Reader:
- Is abstraction valid in photography? Or should it be left to the painters, who during the previous century, already fully explored and mastered abstraction and non-representational art.
- Are there any other artist, either on DeviantArt or elsewhere, that you'd like to share and that can add to this discussion?
- Which do you think makes the most successful photograph: Full tack sharpness throughout, some sharpness mixed with some blur, or fully abstracted?