Photography Interviews: Abstract and Surreal

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Mrs-Durden's avatar
Welcome to an interview of the amazingly talented Abstract and Surreal photographers leoatelier and AiniTolonen. We hope you will enjoy the insight this interview might provide you on Abstract and Surreal photography, and each of their personal experiences and views.

Could you please introduce yourself for us? How long have you been involved in photography and abstract and surreal, more specifically?


I'm an author and a self taught artist and have concentrated on abstract photography for several years, and been lucky to have had a possibility to have several exhibitions for so far. In my youth I have studied Literature, Art History and Cultural Anthropology among other things, which might be seen in my works. Being a self taught artist has its freedom, one is not taught to see the world through conventions and isms, but one is free to experiment and develop ones own style. Abstract art has always fascinated me, and I have admired the structures, different materials and erosion the whole of my life, so when I got a good camera with a possibility for macro, I finally got near enough to show this hidden micro cosmos. And what started as a hobby, changed quickly into ”an obsession”.


I'm Leo, a graphic artist and also photography hobbyist for 10 years. I've been drawing and painting since my childhood, but photography came later in my life, once I started experimenting with digital cameras. I am not too much into surreal photography and mostly do love capturing the abstract in urban environment.

How would you define Abstract and Surreal photography? What are the differences between Abstract or Surreal? What makes them unique?


Not easy to describe abstract photography, I would say there are no rules when it comes to this style. It's all about a composition that makes the viewer wonder what he's looking at? Something that leaves room for a lot of interpretation. Making abstract allows me to put my ideas and concepts into a medium others can understand, in this case photography. On the other side, surreal it's more like a dream, something fantastic, magical and unreal. I can associate this term to a fairy tale.


While Abstract deals with for example shapes, forms, lines, colors and structures, the Surreal has this element of something weird, disturbing and dreamlike, or beyond reality. Both of them are based with reality in the first phase, but as Abstract abstrahizes the subject, Surreal adds an imaginative surreal element, or reveals something surreal in reality. On the other hand Abstract can show the surreality in abstraction, and Surreal can use abstraction in getting the disturbance visible.

Where do you find inspiration for abstract and surreal photography? What is your general process in terms of creating your photography?


The greatest inspiration for my abstract photography is the urban erosion and its details, and the different materials like concrete, metal or glass. The details I'm interested in carry the concept of time, man made and time worn marks, because this scenery is living in constant change. For me it's a matter of finding objects and seeing the importance of them, and making and showing this hidden world that is in the last hand an expression of my feelings. For me the work is not ready without a title, and I know many abstract artists don't share this view but want the works to speak for themselves, but for me the words are essential. So, all and all the process of the first shooting until the work is ready might take a long time. I listen a lot of music while making my photos, to be able to concentrate on the picture itself and to what it speaks to me. Sometimes it doesn't speak, and then I skip it but may start working with it after long time.


As I said earlier I do love the urban environment and world around us is my source for endless ideas. I always study my subject and try to focus on a specific part of it like colors or shape, highlights or shadows. I enjoy the process of creating photography and I'm only shooting what interests me, not anything made specifically for an audience. I love sharing the final results though, and it's always great to hear feedback on them. My photography workflow is pretty simple: I go out on specific photo-walks all the time and take more photos of the same subject from different angles. I mostly use aperture priority to control the DOF or isolate the subject and sometimes focus manually. I keep an eye on the exposure settings and when the light changes, I adjust the camera. The next step is transferring the .raw files to the computer, sorting photos and finally make the necessary adjustments in the digital darkroom. I do not over alter my images to the point they are unrecognizable. I also use the square format in 90% of all my work so image cropping is required.

Could you select some Abstract and Surreal photographs from other fellow deviants here on DeviantArt that you believe best represent what Abstract and Surreal photography is?


What is best depends on ones taste, and some people pay much attention to technique. I can only show some photos that I appreciate and that have touched me personally. All of them carry the feature that they are coherent and unique expression of the artist. The two artists I have chosen are martaraff, with her series of Dirty, abstracts seen through train windows, and arminmersmann2 with his IPhoneography. Both of them have a unique way of seeing the world in abstraction.

The image by martaraff Regret by martaraff

As We Stood and Watched by arminmersmann2 Panama by arminmersmann2


Mindbender by Einsilbig Reves d'urbanisme #9 by LeMatos golden by stachelpferdchen Death Valley by Ash-3xpired
sKies sKuared in sun by Pierre-Lagarde Clash by solefield Power To People by Pierre-Lagarde Parrot by Einsilbig
Mixture by Einsilbig those gentle curves by EintoeRn Shutter Island by dynax700si Paranoid Android by dynax700si

Photomanipulation is something that most tend to frown upon in terms of photography. The Abstract and Surreal gallery often has manipulated photographs. Do you think this is an acceptable part of this genre, or should Abstract and Surreal photographs be kept un-manipulated?


I think there are different kinds of photo manipulation. The simple manipulation when we talk about a moderate editing that allows the photographer to recreate what he saw and an extreme photo manipulation like adding or removing significant elements of a scene. I think this kind of over manipulation is essential in those more surreal images. I guess it really depends on the artist's style and skill.


I don't manipulate my photos myself, but I don't see photo manipulation as a problem, it is just one tool in the artist toolbox. But the photo manipulation is not the value itself, the best is when you see the artwork and the idea itself, not the technique used.

Could you show us one of your favorite Abstract and Surreal photographs from your gallery here on DA, and tell us a little bit about how you created it?


As I'm mostly doing Abstract, the surreal being perhaps a hinting spice that might come out by my choice of the title, I choose to show this abstract (this is really difficult! I could have chosen many other favourite ones, but of this old one I really remember where I took it and how the process went):

Thousand birds leaving by AiniTolonen

In my ”hunting trips” I walked by a building site and was fascinated by the rusty metal support elements surrounding the site, so I started to take photos, and while doing that, a building site manager came and asked what I was doing. I showed him my shots and he said that this kind of art he just doesn't get, he prefers landscape photography… But I got a permission to go inside! At home I browsed through what I got in my basket, and among others found this detail pic where I started to see beautiful mountain lines. So, first seeing something, then finding the right cut, then using contrast and highlighting until I was satisfied with the result. I wasn't quite satisfied with the color, so I took some saturation away. And as I'm a great fan of Japanese art and literature, I saw these mountains and the birds, and got this melancholy feeling of the cool autumn days when the birds are leaving… So it got its name from there!


I don't have a favourite photo of my own, but here is one:

Robotics by leoatelier
There are not much to say about it, other than that it was taken at sunrise a number of years ago and the position of the sun was somehow behind the building. I did just the basic adjustments here like curves, contrast and saturation. Finally, I flipped the image vertically and make the crop. If you wonder what it is, it's the top of an industrial building.

Do you have any advice for beginners trying to take Abstract and Surreal photographs? Is there anything they should avoid? Any specific photography equipment that would help them?


I'm not an equipment freak in my photography, I can only say that a small tripod is always good to have. The most important is to study great artists works, to study all kind of art, to start taking and making your own photos. What I have found out after years, is that one should count on ones instincts, intuition and imagination, without analyzing the end result so much. If I start to analyze, my imagination and creativity gets blocked. But people are different, some may find this analyzing more suitable to their personality, but what I mean is that one just should let go and trust oneself. And as all photography is based on seeing, I would advice to practice ones eyes and the ways of seeing, and by doing that to develop ones own unique way of seeing.


I'm not really the right person to give advices when it comes to photography, but try to exercise your skills and techniques a bit more. There's no need for fancy cameras when you're starting out to take abstract shots. Take photos all the time, even with your phone.

Grab the cam and take a closer look at surroundings. Find a subject that inspires you and look at it through the viewfinder, walk around and find interesting angles. Notice the contrasts (shadow/ight, big/small, old/new, clean/dirty etc), textures, patterns, shapes, reflections, structures. They can be found everywhere.

Two old robins sitting on a snowy fence by AiniTolonen Door was already open when I stepped into my dream by AiniTolonen Celebration of Light by AiniTolonen

Let's take a moment to take these two amazing artists for sharing their thoughts with us :clap:

© 2016 - 2021 Mrs-Durden
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Sei-Zako's avatar
MiSt-Stavi's avatar
Congratulations to the artists. :clap:
arminmersmann2's avatar
great information !
Pierre-Lagarde's avatar
Cool... thanks to all of you for the show... and thank you Leo for the mention ;):hug:
AiniTolonen's avatar
First of all, thank you for this opportunity of this interview, I enjoyed sharing my thoughts about my art. Secondly, and not least, I would like to compliment you of the design and layout of this presentation - and what a wonderful idea to make this a double interview. :)
solefield's avatar
Very interesting, great interviews! Thank you leoatelier for featuring my photo!
dynax700si's avatar
Really enjoyed reading this, great artists! And thanks Leo for mentioning a couple of my photos :D
GeorgeXVII's avatar
Great interview :clap:
Congrats ! 
PaMonk's avatar
Wow! This is a fantastic Interview I did not know much and find this so
Helpful it explains a lot for me thanks for sharing it
And many Thanks to both Artist AiniTolonen  and  leoatelier 
For this Interviews I have enjoyed both and feel so much inspiration from them both. :hug:
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