Do you often look at photographs taken in your childhood and relive those memories? Do you sometime feel the adrenaline rush just by looking at your photo taken right after you did that impossible bungee jump in South Africa? Or can you taste the delicious spread your grandmother served at sadhya (and you stole a moment to capture it)? That’s the power of photographs, or the art of photography. We travel, we explore, we capture and then travel back in time, thanks to the photographs.

We almost never try and look for eccentric features in the photographs we capture. Instead, we try and capture emotions, joys, mostly oblivious to what photography is. Just contained by the limitations set by us, for us. While we try and look for answers to what photography is and how it is more to do with our soul than mind, experts nudge us to look at the meaning in the photographs and not classify them as just ‘landscape’ or ‘portrait.’ To not just look at the shapes, patterns or textures, but also for the message they contain.

Talking about reading the meaning behind shapes and patterns, there’s one genre of photography that lays great emphasis on the power of message behind it: abstract photography. In general, abstract photography is a subject that is not definition bound. There is nothing very specific to it. All you need is to gather a perspective and approach the subject in a unique way.

But, why are we talking about abstract photography? For the simple reason that some studies have shown that it might have calming powers. It carries colours, emotions creating a deep impact.

“Abstract photography uses colours, tones, shapes, lines, patterns, textures and space to convey an emotion, thought, mood or idea. It sends out a message that the subject is not clear, relevant or important. It is a bit like poetry. With poetry the words, rhythms, sounds, connections and spaces create images in your mind that connect with your heart. Certainly the words convey meaning, but it is those other more abstract features where the magic is to be found,” Lee Aspland, a British abstract photographer, and teacher who also offers a course in Mindful Photography says.

But, then there comes a question, how is it even possible to read the message behind the photograph? How is it possible to interpret what the photographer is trying to capture? What are the hidden feelings, emotions behind this photograph and, how will it even help calm our mood? The answer to these questions is to look beyond the limitations.

If a photograph gives you a sense of satisfaction, you are on the right track. You can connect to the photographs and no matter how often you look at them, each day they would have a different story to tell. It will definitely help calm yourself. Kunaal Bose, a Delhi-based fashion photographer also agrees. “Abstract photography can calm your nerves since it doesn’t come with the baggage of a direct depiction of any one subject. It gives more room to express and explore more feelings, which are also abstract in nature,” he says.

Each photograph can have a different memory and a different message and it is upon us to find into it. “The messages can be anywhere from very obvious to very subtle that no one will “get it”.

“To me, the best abstracts are often vague and leave a lot unsaid, but also allow some room for the viewer to connect – to bring a little of themselves to the party,” says Alan Babbit, an American fine art photographer. So, let us not draw boundaries. Let us delve into the deeper meaning and look at the photographs from a different perspective, abstract or not abstract.


Chitman Kanwar Ahuja

Chitman Kanwar Ahuja is a feature writer at L'Officiel India. She is a silver jewellery hoarder and an aesthete of all arts. You can find her unraveling new stories day in and day out.