Abstraktin aika - Epäesittävä suomalainen valokuvataide 1920-2020

Translated title of the contribution: Abstraktin aika - Epäesittävä suomalainen valokuvataide 1920-2020

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


    In recent years, no follower of photographic art can have avoided coming into contact with abstract photography. It seems to be everywhere, from the most expensive galleries to the smallest independent exhibition spaces. New makers emerge, and established artists who previously confined themselves to representational art are now working on abstract works. Numerous photography magazines have covered it, dedicating entire issues to the theme. What is it all about? And what exactly is abstract photography? Then there is the question of whether combining photography and abstraction is even possible or meaningful? To answer these questions this research gathers together over 100 years of abstract photography and approaches photographers and artists about their practice through interviews. As concepts, photography and abstraction seem to be almost opposites. The concept of abstract is usually used specifically to refer to non-representational art and photographic medium is traditionally described as a medium of exact representation. Interpreting non-representational images is further complicated by the variety of definitions used. The thought patterns and manufacturing techniques involved in producing abstractions are manifold. However, what all the definitions have in common is that they refer to photography with unrecognisable or hard-to-recognise subjects.Other recurring themes in abstract photographic art include an investigative orientation, experimentalism, a focus on the working process, and commentary on technical reforms. Medium- related self-referentiality is key: the subjects of abstraction often include the history and characteristics of photography, and the materials of the medium. Throughout its existence, the main subject of photographic abstraction has been photography itself. Furthermore, abstract photographic art is pictorial, non-narrative, and non-verbal. However, this does not mean that abstract photographic art could not be political. Throughout its history, abstract photography has been used as a means to criticise the features and changes of the art world and society in large. Time after time, abstraction challenges the traditional forms of expression and methods of photography, and functions within this medium as a force promoting renewal and vitality. Abstraction reflects the historical changes in photography over the past century. It highlights the technical changes in photography, but also the relationship between photography and the issues surrounding it, such as science or other art. The history of abstraction reflects the essential questions in the field of photography in each era. Finnish contemporary photographic abstraction returns to 19th-century scientific photography, 1920s avant-garde photograms, and studies of motion. With the emergence of new artists, however, each decade sees a change in content. What all abstractionists have in common is a desire to break the representational character of photography and to boldly study different aspects of photography. Makers of photographic abstractions are always required to consciously work against the norms of photography. Abstraction is bold thinking.
    Translated title of the contributionAbstraktin aika - Epäesittävä suomalainen valokuvataide 1920-2020
    Original languageFinnish
    QualificationDoctor's degree
    Awarding Institution
    • Aalto University
    • Laakso, Harri, Supervising Professor
    Print ISBNs978-952-64-0259-8
    Electronic ISBNs978-952-64-0260-4
    Publication statusPublished - 2021
    MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


    • photographic art
    • abstract photography
    • abstraction


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