Abstract Mentoring Assignment

Abstract Photography

This is a style that I love and find fascinating but also at times frustrating to get right.

I have been teaching and guiding students on the monthly mentoring assignment for several months with a single aim to simplify their compositions and recognise the vital elements of any photograph more by the distillation of subject matter and environment than trying to achieve something much more complex.

The last few assignments have really focused on this to encourage everyone to really push the boundaries of this concept to help them make more complex photos in the future.  In my view if you cannot make a simple picture work then you will struggle to make a complex photo where the scene may contain chaos and little uniformity.

The themes have been targeted at using simpler design and recognising tone, texture, shape, form and contrast to create impactful compositions.  As I have stated before the lines are blurred when it comes to definitions and my students have certainly exercised a wide interpretation of the brief - often producing something that in my view falls into the grey zone of could be abstract, could be minimalist, could be close up or any combination of the three.

Definitions are not prescriptive and often overlap

Definitions are not prescriptive and often overlap

minimalism is a style that uses pared-down design elements

Pairing down, to me, means reducing the elements in the frame to simplicity.  That is to say, can i reduce the colour palette down, can i reduce the tone and textures and most importantly does the space dominate the frame but still give a focal point to the subject.

close-Up is simply the tight framing of a subject(s), captured either through using the zoom lens or macro lens for shooting even closer and magnifying beyond what the human eye can see.

abstract uses colour, lines, patterns, shapes and form or contrast to present subjects or parts of a subject in a way that we don’t necessarily recognise the subject content at first glance.

So how did the students do this month?  Overall, really well though there were definitely some images that were classically more close-up than abstract but that's just my opinion and I always accept that the wide interpretation of style, subject matter and intent is what makes art so fascinating.


Jacki Rosin

Steve Chilton

Chris Shaw

Kirsten Pearce

Dunstan Vavasour

Kirsten Pearce

Michael Parker

This is just a selection of another round of excellent shots from those on the monthly mentoring programme.  It is really satisfying for me to see just how much each person improves month on month - more and more the camera craft is less of an issue and students are really getting stuck into the design, creative intention and developing their ability to turn the 'ordinary' into the extraordinary in their shots.  

Well done to all you for taking up the challenge and having a go even when the subject matter may not be your to your taste and style.  The next couple of months of assignments will be focusing on the two very opposite aspects of picture making, colour in Autumn and then Black and White - I can't wait to see the results.

If you are inspired and want to join in these monthly assignments then feel free to email or phone me for a chat about what's involved.  You can be based anywhere in the world to participate as everything is done through email and Dropbox so the only barrier to getting involved is you. At just £20 a month you could be on your way to your first assignment with the prospect of an honest but supportive critique at the end on your images.  

For more details see the Photography Mentoring  Programme page.