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Click photo to view  Mark Lindquist's Early Abstract Photographs

Mark Lindquist Abstract Photography

Mark Lindquist's Abstract Photographs - How They're Made
Article written in 2007
© 2007-2016 

"Ink and Light" defines my abstract photo images.  They begin as light and become manifest in ink.  They are made in-camera, each chosen from tens of hundreds of images from a shoot, and processed in cutting edge digital darkroom programs.  They are drawings and paintings made with a camera.  I push and pull light, grab onto specular highlights, and paint by manipulating the camera manually, shaping the essence of light until finally, the images are realized in ink.  Ink and light, on paper, canvas, and metal, the images appear from another world, unseen, but oddly familiar.

Simply put, my abstract photos are "motion blur" photographs, akin to the photographic technique called "panning".

We've all seen "panning" shots of race cars where the car is in focus and the background is blurry.  This effect is achieved by focusing on the subject and tracking or following the subject.  The result is most often a blurred background which can be uniquely expressive.

I use the technique of panning and push it to its boundaries.  When I began serious enquiries into the motion blur effect for making abstract photos, I experimented with panning shots in downtown Vancouver in 2005.  The following image, titled Step Into The Light, illustrates a motion blur panning shot.

Mark Lindquist, Step Into The Light, (From the Light-Walkers Series), 2005, Vancouver, BC, Nikon D2H  Copyright 2005, Lindquist Studios


As I gain control over the process that creates my abstract photographs (what I call "Robography"), I am looking for pathways of expression that are uniquely my own yet are informed by traditional photographic techniques and historical approaches. 

While working in the field of woodturning, when I applied robotic processes to certain aspects of work holding and object making, I began to understand the concept of that which is seemingly unattainable: the glimpse that is given inspires confidence to continue through many years of pursuit. It occurs to me now, after over forty years of making machines to create sculpture and making sculptures themselves, that the idea exists "over there." 

Now, for me, when shooting with a camera, creating a Robograph (Robograf, Robograv -- abstract photograph made using my evolved motion blur process), the conditions must be exactly right. The light must be perfect, the camera must be perfect, the setup must be perfect, the mood must be perfect, the approach must be relaxed, while ultimately done with fervor. The light goes away. The time to set up marches on inconsolably, the process involves setbacks. Hopefully there is another late afternoon light that will reveal the same effect, but it is not always the case. The balance between work and play is critical. The approach is that of the scientist, the experimenter, but also the songwriter or poet.

Mark Lindquist, Antelope Dream, 2005, Nikon D2H, copyright Lindquist Studios

I have often thought about Chuck Yeager and the team that set about to break the sound barrier. Each time they approached the sound barrier the plane shook violently almost to the point of breaking apart. Finally, Yeager broke through to the other side and the flight smoothed out. Each time, going to break the barrier anew, the same thing happened: like that, with a bang, they were on the other side. So I think about my Robographical process, similarly: it requires the effort to get there, then to break on through to the other side. If it doesn't get to the other side, (when critical elements are either missing or not in concert), then the result is less than stellar. I would call it a kind of mediocrity at its more elevated level. When the image comes back from the other side, it is a new creation of what does not exist in our world as we know it. Shapes shift, colors meld, and form and line bend and warp in other world timeliness. If not in that other realm, objects are still extant, tentatively recognizable, and it spoils the illusion. 

Knowing what the object is (or was) is not what the newly recreated image from the other side is about. To know what the image came from is largely doom -- it crashes violently back to our world of reality when it was originally headed for the dream world. Sometimes it requires Herculean effort to push through to capture that most fleeting of images, the right one may be the only one out of gigabytes and gigabytes of attempts over days, weeks, months. But sometimes, once broken through, there is beautifully smooth sailing and every image is amazingly, hauntingly perfect. presenting an even greater challenge to edit down, edit down, to distill.

There are easy ways to capture abstract images through night photography of neon lights or car lights moving down the road. This is a known, almost automatic technique that results in glowing lines on a black background. I am interested in pushing, moving, shaping light in any time, through control. I strive to master control of the process that I formerly deemed serendipitous (happy accident). In each aspect of shooting, it was always dogged determination and stubbornness that got me the shot I was after -- that elusive prize on the other side. Gradually, pushing to learn more and more about technical aspects of capturing and processing, using specialized tools and techniques, things begin to come together in a more controlled environment where light begins to move for me the way I am accustomed to moving wood or paint, or steel.

So much of photography is about revealing the unknown. We can see the eye of the eagle that is so high above using a 600 mm lens. But I can see the image of my dreams (mind's eye) using robomimical process and devices. Applying the studied and careful practice of the potter, methodically wading through mounds of clay, at the end of the day I have many images to be "trimmed and glazed." When I apprenticed to a potter, he taught me to destroy all pots except those that achieved the ideal we were trying to express. So it is, then, after firing, only a few will remain....

RECURSIONS: The Various Forms

My abstract images consist of various types:
1)  Single in-camera images (one image chosen from gigabytes of shots taken during one or more shooting sessions - normally outdoors in the late afternoon light)

Mark Lindquist, JetStreamline, copyright Lindquist Studios

2) Mirror images, where the original single shot is flipped horizontally

Mark Lindquist, Chrysler, copyright Lindquist Studios

3) Mirrored and manipulated images, where the image is flipped both horizontally and vertically, and rotated and cropped to create a final abstract form.

Mark Lindquist, Conga, copyright Lindquist Studios

4) Mirrored and manipulated images, where the image is flipped both horizontally and vertically, and rotated and cropped, flipped back upon itself, cropped back, rotated and further manipulated in puzzle-like convolutions, where the image is complete when, based on the outcome, I determine it is time to stop, which is simply an aesthetic decision.

Mark Lindquist, Oceana/Africana, copyright Lindquist Studios

TITLES: How and why they are named

Usually, I have a concept in mind as I develop a finished photograph from the initial image. I am trying to evoke the spirit of a place and time as in a dream, not to produce an image that directly refers to a specific object. My titles are intended to suggest those concepts without insisting on them; as abstractions, the photographs are open to the interpretation of the viewer. Often the titles refer to dream-like objects; they are surreal images that mirror a parallel artistic universe.

In Big Night at the Bijou, (below) the image conjures up the late night neon lights and marquee of a movie theatre in an earlier time, when theatres added glamour and excitement to small towns across the country.

Mark Lindquist, Big Night at the Bijou, copyright Lindquist Studios

 (below) takes its name from a mind's eye view of a non-existent ceiling of a dream-like, imaginary Waldorf Astoria.  Somehow, looking up into the vaulted ceiling creates perspective and invites entry into the image.

Mark Lindquist, Astoria, copyright Lindquist Studios

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04|10|2007 - 01-01-2016



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