Developed in China, paper as we know it has been around for at least 2000 years. Originally made by pressing the wet fibers of plant-derived cellulose together and dried in sheets, paper’s ability to be mass produced resulted in the advancement of the written word as a means to pass information down through time. This accelerated exchange of information triggered a revolution in cultural and technological advancements that have shaped the way we live today.
Artists paint and photographers print on specialized paper. Books, magazines, and newspapers distribute information across the world. Important documents are filed away on paper, ready to be pulled out at a moment’s notice. Even with today’s abundance of computer screens, paper has endured as an indispensable material.
Creating abstract photos is another wonderful use of paper. With a few bulldog clips, some colored paper, and a bit of creativity, you can create beautiful abstract images to enjoy and use as desktop wallpapers or backgrounds.
What you will need
- Your camera
- A macro lens or set of extension tubes
- A selection of different colored paper (I used a packet of variously sized one-color per piece origami paper I found at a dollar shop).
- Several medium or large bulldog clips.
Selecting a space
First, you’ll need to choose a space to set up in. This is important because your paper needs to be exposed to plenty of natural light. Otherwise, your shadows will be too dark, and your photographs will look flat or awkward.
Set up outside, or near a large window with a decent amount of light flooding into your space. I work on a desk outside, with plenty of room to move and shoot from different perspectives.
Setting up for this project is can be a little tricky. Once you’ve settled on a space to work in, you’ll need to arrange your colored paper. First, select a piece of colored paper that will serve as the background for the image. You’ll want this background to cover the frame, so choose a size that has adequate coverage. The background color is up to you, so choose whatever catches your eye.
Next, add a second layer of paper to sit on top of the background. This will be your foreground subject. Again, the color is up to you. To make an interesting image, you need to separate the foreground layer from the background. You’ll do this by physically adjusting the orientation of the foreground paper.
Generally, sheets of paper want to stay flat and straight, so shaping your foreground paper can take a little bit of coordination. An easy way to control the orientation of the paper is to add weight to its edges. Attach a bulldog clip to each side of the piece of colored paper and lay it down so that there is a gap between the foreground and background paper.
Photographing your creations
Once you’ve attached your bulldog clips and arranged your paper, it’s time to get busy photographing. There are no hard-and-fast rules here, just photograph what you think looks best.
Try sitting your foreground paper vertically or horizontally in relation to the background paper for different depth effects. You can also try focusing your lens on different areas of the paper, or for a smooth, featureless gradient, unfocus your lens altogether. Focus on a small section of your paper or zoom out to include the whole arrangement.
You can modify the shape of your foreground paper by manipulating the location of the bulldog clips on the paper. Moving them closer together creates a nice S or U bend in the middle of the paper for soft organic lines. For harder lines, move the bulldog clips further away from each other to tighten the paper.
Paper has a thousand uses, the great thing about this project is that there is no right or wrong way to do things. Just take some time to relax and experiment. If you have kids or grandchildren, get them to help you – they’ll have fun helping to arrange the paper.