Black and white abstract photography, also known as black and white surrealism photography, is a beautiful art form with seemingly infinite possibilities. The style encompasses two of our favorite types of photography, black and white photography and abstract photography. Madhur Dhingra, an impressionist and abstract street photographer, has some of the most beautiful, impactful and visually interesting examples of black and white abstract photography that we’ve seen, and he was kind enough to share his thoughts and his images with our community. Enjoy the images and interview below.
Interview with Madhur Dhingra about his Black and White Surrealism Photography
Please note that English is not Madhur’s first language, and as such, some of the grammar may be incorrect.
1- What inspired you to create these photos?
I, Madhur Dhingra, am an Impressionist / Abstract Street Photographer, passionate about shooting random happenings and unknown faces on streets. I keep experimenting with new techniques & style to make my images unique. Personally I have always experienced an inherent emptiness inside me, due to which I tend to get bored soon doing similar images. As a photographer I have an inherent urge to continuously evolve both in style and technique.
I have been a spiritual person right from my childhood. The images displayed here are the first in a 10 part series of a personal journey where I search answers to some fundamental questions about life, its meaning and purpose and then later my understanding about nature of ‘Reality’. This quest is taking me to every nook and corner of India meeting sadhus, monks, philosophers, scientists and charlatans alike.
Images of this story were shot in different regions of Ladakh and Zanskar, including ancient Buddhist Monasteries dating back more than 3000 years. These monasteries are located in the remotest regions of the Indian Himalayas.
2 – For photographers looking to create impactful images like this, could you share your process of coming up with your concepts and ideas?
Shooting people on the streets has always fascinated me. Those strange and unknown faces with their uncharted expressions and emotions enthrall me to my very core. Going closer and closer to chaos on the Indian streets, till I myself become a part of very chaos I want to shoot, has lead me to capture my most memorable images. Each of my picture needs to tell a story on its own and also be a part of a larger story to make them all coherent. I have never had any interest in singular images no matter how good they might be.
I love spontaneously created moments and real emotions, use them to create strong artistic images and then weave them into a strong storyline. Words and images then become a formidable pair in conveying what I need to say.
What initially started as stark realism in street photography has now given way to abstract, impressionist and painterly imagery. Waiting endlessly for ‘the decisive moment’ does not attract me anymore. I now like to blur out images, faces, expressions and create movement in my own way. Many a times I use Intentional Camera Movement technique where I experiment with shutter speeds varying from 1/10s to 1/30s with a horizontal / vertical movement of the camera.
I then process the images keeping in mind the mood & aesthetics of that particular image, using brushes, smudges, light and painterly effects to reach my visualized image. The lighting effect is mostly taken into consideration at the shooting stage depending on what mood I want to create. Going very close to the subject remains an integral part of my style. I can never ever forget the saying of Robert Capa “If your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”
I have no preconceived ideas on how I would end up editing a particular image. Each image is different and my treatment to that image goes accordingly. I am very intuitive in this process and simply follow my heart. It is something like playing with a jigsaw puzzle. Somewhere in my mind I have a rough image and then I start playing with the tools at my disposal, till there comes a time when something in me says “Stop…this is it” . I then leave that edited image for some days without looking at it. After some days when I relook at that very image and I find that I invariably need to make finer adjustments. This process takes place 2-3 times till I am finally done.
Needless to say restlessness , emptiness and a void are always at play no matter how I approach my images.
Link To Something About My Style
3- What cameras, lenses and lighting gear were used to create the photos?
My Gear :
• Canon 6 D
• Canon 5 D Mark 2
• Tokina16-28 F2.8
• Canon 24-105 L Series F4
• Canon 75-300 Lens F4-5.6 EF Series
• Minolta 4 Light Meter
• Yongnou Flash YN 685
• Laptop : DELL
• External Hard Drive : 2Pcs
• Drive No 3 – 2TB
• Drive No 5 – 2TB
4. Camping Equipment:
• Sleeping Bag
• Carry Mat
I only use Canon full frame cameras. I have always been a fan of Canon because their lenses are very good in quality and cost effective too. Though I have a Mamiya RZ 67 Camera I don’t use it for shooting people as it is very heavy.
4- Could you provide us with a brief bio?
I was born an only child to my parents in Delhi, into a family torn apart by the aftermath of the India-Pakistan partition. I did my schooling from St.Xavier’s High School, Delhi. After school I went to the Delhi University and took up English Honors as my subject. India-Pakistan partition bloodbath resulted my then affluent family moving to New Delhi completely penniless and shattered. This resulted in massive insecurity within the family members. Though born much later in Delhi I was forced to inherit all those very insecurities.
Photography came to me as a fulfillment of a void that has plagued me because of those insecurities. It started as a hobby in 1996, later to become an acute passion and profession. I studied photography at the prestigious art institute “Triveni Kala Sangam” situated in Mandi House, New Delhi. After passing out from there I started shooting product photography for all major advertising agencies in New Delhi. I have done campaigns for prestigious agencies like O&M, MAA, Interface and a host of others. I now have 25 years of photography behind me. However my real passion lies in shooting people.
I am an Fine Art / Impressionist Street Photographer, passionate about shooting random happenings and unknown faces on streets. I keep experimenting with new techniques & style to make my images unique. I shoot in- studio and on the streets, handling both studio and ambient light artistically. I am a strong believer in photography being a lifelong affair with learning and experimenting. Personally I tend to get bored soon doing similar images. As a photographer I have an inherent urge to continuously evolve both in style and technique. It is pertinent to say here that my images reflect to a large extent the void and emptiness I carry with me from my childhood till date.
Isolation resulting because of the pandemic made me search rigorously for a style which I could call entirely my own. My current work is a result of that very search. Many magazines and galleries too have published my recent work.
My exhibitions and work have been highly acclaimed and published in India, Europe & Canada & America.
My Short Biography : Download Link
More of Madhur Dhingra’s Black and White Abstract Photography
All images are displayed with permission from the artist. Do not copy or publish without direct authorization from the photographer.