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Introduction to Abstract Photography: Interview with Mark Cornick

Marianne Stenger
26th November 2018

Every type of photography requires some creativity, but it’s particularly crucial when it comes to abstract photography. This is because abstract photography involves finding patterns or interesting details in seemingly ordinary scenes or objects and then stripping away context to allow viewers to see the subject in an entirely new light.

London-based urban and abstract photographer Mark Cornick finds inspiration in everything from the London underground to autumn leaves and seascapes.

His most recent photography project, titled “Fathom,” features coastal abstract images made in Cornwall. The project helped him gain Royal Photographic Society ARPS distinction, and Cornick’s arresting images have also earned him the expert winner award in the Large Depth of Field competition and an award in the 2017 Landscape Photographer of the Year competition.

We caught up with him briefly to find out what attracted him to abstract photography, where he finds his inspiration, and what his creative process is like.

What attracted you to abstract photography in particular?

I studied Film at university so I have always been interested and passionate about visuals and imagery. I started out shooting video on a Canon DSLR, and then gravitated towards stills photography. My wife’s granddad has been a successful photographer for most of his life, and he was instrumental in my decision to pursue photography.

I think I have always been quite “abstract” in my approach to imagery as I love focusing on details such as textures, shapes and patterns, whether these details are part of a new skyscraper or a macro image of an autumn leaf.

What would you say are the elements that make a good abstract photograph?

Patterns, textures, and shapes are important. I think what makes a successful abstract image is if it makes the viewer stop and study the image in order to try and work out what they are actually viewing.

How do you find inspiration and subjects for your photography?

I find inspiration from the active community of photographers on Twitter and other platforms who are creating fantastic work every week.

As I move more towards outdoor and landscape abstract photography, even just a walk in the woods can open up the potential for making new images.  I have recently started working with macro photography, which is a dream for creating abstract photography.

I have just completed one project called “Fathom”. This is a series of coastal abstract images made in Cornwall. The beach and the ocean are some of my favourite places to work.

As a new dad, finding opportunities to travel to new places has been difficult, so my latest project is something that can be done in my own house. It’s a series of Macro images showing the details of autumn leaves.

What sort of preparation goes into the making of one of your abstract photographs?

I will usually plan the location in advance, and I’ll have an idea of the techniques I want to use, such as “Intentional Camera Movement” or “Multiple Exposure.” However, once I am actually at a location, I just work with the conditions and experiment.

Do you have any favourites among the images you’ve created so far?

My “Fathom” series is certainly my favourite set of images for a number of reasons. Cornwall is a special place for me, so to be able to create a series of images there is a wonderful thing.

I used 15 images from this particular project recently to gain my Royal Photographic Society ARPS distinction, and it’s great to know that the images have been recognised as being of a high enough standard to achieve this.

Do you have any advice for someone looking to experiment with abstract photography?

Start by doing some research on the type of image you are interested in making and find out how to do it and where you will need to go. Once you’ve done all the necessary research, my advice would be to just go for it. Practice as much as possible, make mistakes, and just enjoy the process of making images.

All images © Mark Cornick. If you’d like to see more of his work you can visit his website or follow him on Facebook and Instagram.