Is minimalism changing our photography for better or worse? – Fstopper | Ad On Picture

Minimalism is a word used by some photographers and overlooked by many others. There’s so much more to it than excluding elements from our images, and embracing their broader meaning can transform the way we approach photography.

“Less is more,” said the architect and last director of the Bauhaus, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. However, minimalism is not only the reduction of pictorial elements, but also the renunciation of all flourishes. Like most art movements, it began in the West as a denunciation of what came before it. In this case, partly modernist art, like that of Pablo Picasso, who later moved to minimalism. In western art and design, it first appeared in America in the 1960s. However, it goes before that. By another name, the style of eliminating clutter from art and design has been an important part of Japanese culture for centuries. For example, look at the following image.

The landscape of the Four Seasons (Eight Views of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers) by Sōami, created in the early 16th century, has a minimalist aesthetic that has characterized Japanese culture for centuries. It should be noted that the right image should be viewed first, going from right to left. You can read about the reason for this here.

Like many art movements, this minimalist approach has its roots in philosophy. Zen Buddhism is about reducing superfluous details from life. Meanwhile, the movement in Western philosophy stems from the work of Gottlob Frege and his philosophical inquiry into truth.

In photography, minimalism is so much more than excluding subjects from the frame. As with other fine arts, the image can be assumed to have its reality. With most of the photos we produce, we depict the world around us. Whereas with minimalism we don’t try to represent external reality but ask the viewer to only react to what is in front of them. Minimalist photographs have a refined beauty and represent a harmonious and simple order.

We find this beauty in the everyday and in the unexpected, often by emphasizing abstract geometry. The images also have an honest quality as they don’t pretend to be anything more than they are; they don’t pretend to be anything else. In minimalist photography we reject the depiction of reality.

To understand this principle, consider the following image. It’s a sunrise over the sea with the sun reflected in the water. The second is a crop of the same image. Without the context of the first image, the yellow line can lose meaning. It’s not necessarily the sun shining on the sea, just a yellow line on a textured surface.

Minimalist photography is always representative of reality

There is a big difference between most minimalist artworks and minimalist photography. As much as we try not to be, a photograph is always a reflection of the real world. Consequently, at first our minimalist paintings may only be geometric shapes, but upon closer inspection or longer viewing, the subject matter becomes apparent. As accepted by modern gestalt theory, our mind suddenly shifts from seeing the shapes and patterns to recognizing the subject. Accordingly, minimalism in our art can also be considered a branch of abstract photography.

Using minimalist photographic techniques

How can we introduce minimalism into our photography? Our approach to minimalism can be either capturing existing minimalist subjects or using camera techniques to achieve a minimalist result.

We can also search for subjects that are already minimalist, such as modern buildings and even everyday objects. Chances are your phone, laptop and some cameras are minimalist in design. Their form follows their function. Alternatively, there are a variety of in-camera techniques, including achieving a shallow depth of field, using long exposures, intentional camera movements, being extremely close or far away, shooting in fog, and using large areas of negative space.

Minimalism in design

Within design and architecture, minimalism is the product of architect Louis Sullivan’s idea that form follows function. Taking this teaching to its logical conclusion, all embellishments and embellishments become superfluous. Inevitably, all that remains is the bare negative space and the essential elements of the design.

Minimalism in design also differs from that of photography and fine arts in that it is theoretically a solution to maximize functionality. In art and photography, the minimalist approach is conceptual.

Everyday minimalism is a good thing, right?

Incorporating minimalism into everyday life has become fashionable in recent years, and an approach that’s not without criticism. Marie Kondo talks about ridding ourselves of what doesn’t “joy”. It rang true for 11 million people who bought their Kon Mari Method book.

This approach is appealing. In the US, households own over 300,000 items on average. Much of it is useless, just clutter getting in the way. There’s something obscene about hoarding rubbish when so many people are homeless and starving. However, critics say that trying to achieve this minimalist style requires us to create “mountains of unwanted things” and, ironically, to buy more things to match the minimalist aesthetic. Moreover, this bare nudity itself can become overbearing and oppressive.

While some claim that instead of clutter, we make room for time and creativity, others say space can limit us.

Objects can be inspirational, and if we remove those objects from our lives, will that potential for creativity be reduced? After all, many great creative minds were known for their messy clutter in their workplaces: Beethoven and Einstein were known for their clutter, and JK Rowling’s desk is famous for its clutter. Research shows that while good health choices, generosity, and conventionalism typify an uncluttered mind, clutter breeds creativity.

Is the joy of minimalism subjective?

As with all things artistic, the joy of minimalism in photography is subjective. I far prefer to see photos with very simple compositions and you may disagree. Yet there is a dichotomy here. My appreciation for minimalist art and photography is at odds with my appreciation for ornate engineering, decorative architecture, and ornate design.

I believe that following minimalist design principles, eschewing embellishment, and rigidly clinging to the idea that form follows function creates a boring, boring ugliness. Therefore, in architecture, I get a greater emotional response walking through an ornate cathedral, mosque, temple, or palace than walking the austere corridors of most modern buildings. Likewise, I’m more inspired by my wife’s 19th-century desk than a Panton chair.

I would rather look at a 19th century steam locomotive than a modern day electric train. Similarly, classic cars are elaborate things of beauty, while the simplicity of most modern cars is boring to look at. Then compare the lines of the Mayflower to those of a cruise ship. Even the engineering of London’s Victorian sewage system, designed by Joseph Bazalgette, is a thing of beauty.

Also, I believe that beauty and ornamentation are a function in themselves and therefore should be incorporated into their form. For example, as I’ve written before, I prefer a camera that’s inspirational to look at and use, rather than a shapeless lump of plastic. The strict adherence to form follows function often ignores this, but it’s a concept that camera manufacturers have realized with the OM system (Olympus), Fujifilm and with their latest version Nikon.

However, contrary to my design considerations, removing extra elements from a photo can usually improve it. The aesthetic of a simple, unique subject against a sea of ​​negative space appeals to my mind’s eye. Does it belong to you?

This summary of minimalism is, of course, a generalization limited by the length of the article, and as always there are exceptions. It’s also a subjective view. But do you agree? Or are your views on minimalism the opposite of mine? I would be interested in your opinion.

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