Finding Joy in Abstract Nature Photography
February 8, 2023 | Topics: Articles
By Eddee Daniel
“In every landscape should reside jewels of abstract art waiting to be discovered.” ~ Melissa Brown
What joy can be found in seeing surprising natural beauty in a heavily populated metropolitan area like ours! And while I consider the very fact of urban natural areas, as well as representing them in documentary fashion, to be beautiful, sometimes I simply want to drill down to a more distilled beauty. In other words, I seek out abstraction.
I say “seek out abstraction” as opposed to “create an abstraction” because, unlike a painting that can be completely non-objective, a photograph must necessarily begin with objective reality. But, you might ask, what makes a photograph abstract? On one level, all photographs are abstract because they represent the three-dimensional world on a two-dimensional surface. But there are degrees of abstraction and the more abstract images are those that tend to emphasize graphic elements like color, line, and pattern, etc. over representational ones. Occasionally, a photograph will be so abstract that it loses all sense of reference to external reality.
Jean Hélion, a French modernist painter, put it this way: “I understand abstract art as an attempt to feed imagination with a world built through the basic sensations of the eyes.”
I concur. And so I seek abstraction through the basic sensations of my eyes—with my camera. As will be clear from the images, the abstractions I find tend to simplify the seen world, reducing trees to lines, leaves to patterns of color, ice crystals to variations in texture, and so on. However, my personal favorites tend not to be the most simplistic, but those that layer complexity over basic simplicity. You may notice some quirkiness in my approach to titling these. Sometimes the title is intended to emphasize the image’s abstract qualities; other times I pay homage to a different artistic medium, or an historical artist whose style of painting may be evoked. (However, this being A Wealth of Nature with its mission of inspiring the reader to explore area parks and preserves, the captions also reveal the locations with links to the ones on our Find-a-Park map.)
“Abstract art has helped us to experience the emotional power inherent in pure form.” ~ Anton Ehrenzweig
Over the past year I have collected these abstract images in all seasons and in many different locations. The images presented here are a selection of my favorites. The beauty that I find in them brings me a double dose of joy. It is always a joyful moment when I happen upon a scene in which I sense abstract qualities. Seeing the image created from that scene brings its own twin joys: the joy inherent in beholding its beauty and the joy of remembering the beautiful place of its origins.
“The abstract nature of reality is the source of beauty.” ~ William DeRaymond
“The object isn’t to make art; it’s to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.” ~ Robert Henri
“If the artist has outer and inner eyes for nature, nature rewards him by giving him inspiration.” ~ Kandinsky
“It has come to this, that the lover of art is one, and the lover of nature another, though true art is but the expression of our love of nature.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
“Long used in fields as diverse as religion, philosophy, and science, surprisingly, the word abstract wasn’t widely used in the arts until the early 1900s during the modernist movement, when painters and sculptors departed from realism and even representation, which was in part a reaction to photography.” ~ John Paul Caponigro
“Don’t think about making art. Just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” ~ Andy Warhol
If you’re looking for joy in nature — and why not! — we can help you find a place to explore with our Find-a-Park map.
Eddee Daniel is a board member of Preserve Our Parks. The featured photo at the top of the page is from the Menomonee River Parkway in Wauwatosa.