Loading Spinner

Abstract Photography

Photography was initially limited by technology and chemistry to portraiture, still life, and landscapes. Yet it was not long before considerable advances in camera portability and sophisticated printing papers allowed photographers to experiment with abstraction. Advocates for art photography appeared as early as the 1890s, shunning false backgrounds set up for portraiture within studio walls.

In both France and the United States, artists began to create pictorial photographs that imitated the effects of painting, prints and drawings. In the early 20th century, photographers advocated for straight photographs that relied on composition, and promoted the pure aesthetics of the medium. Sharp detail was sought, leading photographers to experiment with capturing form apart from subject matter.

Alfred Steiglitz, a lifelong champion of artistic and straight photography, produced pictures of clouds and sun called Equivalents in the 1920s. The Equivalents are abstractions, forms floating in space, recognizable for what they are, but also causing the viewer to contemplate pattern and form.


Quick Facts

  • California-based photographer Edward Weston pioneered such sharp focus that both the foreground and background of a photograph would be clear. He combined the two opposing forces of realism and abstraction, and in works such as Artichoke Halved, the abstract pattern is revealed as a descriptive detail of the vegetable
  • In Paris, Christian Schad and Man Ray created Schadographs and Rayographs, respectively, by placing objects on sensitized paper, and upon exposure to the sun, making images of shapes and their shadows in an abstract collage
  • Hungarian photographer André Kertész experimented with abstracting the human form by using unusual camera angles and techniques in the 1930s. These works are best represented by the Distortion series, where he used reflective mirrors to abstract bodies

Recommended Items at Auction

See all items

"Evening Ferry Ride" by Ursula Abresch Canvas Reproduction
May 21, 9:00 PM EDT
"Evening Ferry Ride" by Ursula Abresch Canvas Reproduction
by Weatherham Estate Treasures
Est: $520- $720
$3100 Bids
Andreas Lutherer (1962 Mönchengladbach)
May 25, 2:00 PM CEST
Andreas Lutherer (1962 Mönchengladbach)
by Wettmann
Est: €900- €0
€9000 Bids
bp parity badge
2017 LESTER MARKS "COTTON CANDY CLOUDS, OF COURSE"
Jun 05, 6:00 PM CDT
2017 LESTER MARKS "COTTON CANDY CLOUDS, OF COURSE"
by Lewis & Maese Antiques & Auctions
Est: $400- $800
$2000 Bids
bp parity badge
2011 LESTER MARKS "LADY ELLA & TWO FRIENDS"
Jun 05, 6:00 PM CDT
2011 LESTER MARKS "LADY ELLA & TWO FRIENDS"
by Lewis & Maese Antiques & Auctions
Est: $600- $800
$4000 Bids
bp parity badge
2012 LESTER MARKS CHROMOGRAPHY
Jun 05, 6:00 PM CDT
2012 LESTER MARKS CHROMOGRAPHY
by Lewis & Maese Antiques & Auctions
Est: $400- $600
$2000 Bids
GOROSPE, JAIME (1958)
May 28, 5:00 PM CEST
GOROSPE, JAIME (1958)
by Duran Arte y Subastas
Est: €0- €0
€2500 Bids
GOROSPE, JAIME (1958)
May 28, 5:00 PM CEST
GOROSPE, JAIME (1958)
by Duran Arte y Subastas
Est: €0- €0
€2500 Bids
ALCARÁZ, JORDI (1953)
May 28, 5:00 PM CEST
ALCARÁZ, JORDI (1953)
by Duran Arte y Subastas
Est: €0- €0
€4750 Bids
AARON SISKIND (1903–1991)
Jun 05, 6:00 PM CEST
AARON SISKIND (1903–1991)
by OstLicht Auctions
Est: €1,400- €1,800
€9000 Bids
Kozman, Myron: Photogram
Jun 05, 3:00 PM CEST
Kozman, Myron: Photogram
by Bassenge Auctions
Est: €700- €900
€7000 Bids
Quigley, Edward W.: Photogram
Jun 05, 3:00 PM CEST
Quigley, Edward W.: Photogram
by Bassenge Auctions
Est: €1,800- €2,000
€1,8000 Bids
Roszak, Theodore Jacob: Photogram
Jun 05, 3:00 PM CEST
Roszak, Theodore Jacob: Photogram
by Bassenge Auctions
Est: €1,500- €1,800
€1,5000 Bids
Schieron, Ernst: Kreisstudie; Work study (multiple exposure)
Jun 05, 3:00 PM CEST
Schieron, Ernst: Kreisstudie; Work study (multiple exposure)
by Bassenge Auctions
Est: €400- €600
€4000 Bids
Thiemann, Elsa: Design for wallpaper
Jun 05, 3:00 PM CEST
Thiemann, Elsa: Design for wallpaper
by Bassenge Auctions
Est: €1,200- €1,500
€1,2000 Bids
bp parity badge
LESTER MARKS "SUN BURST"
Jun 05, 6:00 PM CDT
LESTER MARKS "SUN BURST"
by Lewis & Maese Antiques & Auctions
Est: $200- $400
$100 Bids
bp parity badge
LESTER MARKS "5785" 2011
Jun 05, 6:00 PM CDT
LESTER MARKS "5785" 2011
by Lewis & Maese Antiques & Auctions
Est: $200- $400
$100 Bids
Peter Keetman, Kunststoff-Profile, 1963
Jun 04, 2:00 PM CEST
Peter Keetman, Kunststoff-Profile, 1963
by Kunsthaus Lempertz KG
Est: €1,600- €1,800
€1,2000 Bids
Lotte Laska, Schilfspiegelungen. Untitled, 1950s
Jun 04, 2:00 PM CEST
Lotte Laska, Schilfspiegelungen. Untitled, 1950s
by Kunsthaus Lempertz KG
Est: €800- €1,000
€6000 Bids
Hoepffner, Marta: Rhythmisches Raster
Jun 05, 3:00 PM CEST
Hoepffner, Marta: Rhythmisches Raster
by Bassenge Auctions
Est: €2,000- €2,500
€2,0000 Bids
Hoepffner, Marta: Gegenbewegung I
Jun 05, 3:00 PM CEST
Hoepffner, Marta: Gegenbewegung I
by Bassenge Auctions
Est: €2,000- €2,500
€2,0000 Bids
Jacobi, Lotte: Photogenic abstraction
Jun 05, 3:00 PM CEST
Jacobi, Lotte: Photogenic abstraction
by Bassenge Auctions
Est: €800- €1,200
€8000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Abstract Photography


Bassenge Auctions

Bassenge Auctions

Schneider-Henn

Schneider-Henn

Kunsthaus Lempertz KG

Kunsthaus Lempertz KG

TGP Auction

TGP Auction