Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Minimalism – Simplifying Your Life and Your Photography

Crab boat on the Patomac
I am perpetually in search of ways to simplify my life.  I am spectacularly unsuccessful in doing so.  It is quite true that I regularly stumble upon or devise ways of simplifying my life.  But like the mold growing on week-old pizza, chaos and complexity have a way of consuming any aspect that may have been simplified to even a minor degree.
Hurricane Ivan in Grenada  (50 of 50)
Honestly, this is a regular thought for me.  My normal strategy is to shed, discard, or withdraw from things that make my life more complex unless for some likely irrational reason, these things or activities are particularly important to me.  The trajectory intended by shedding these complicating activities is toward a reasonable level of minimalism (by my standards).  Unfortunately it feels more like a perpetual process rather than something for which I am actually gaining ground.
Piney Point Waterfront-4
As I was recently once again wondering what I might do to simplify my life, I somehow made the transition to wondering what does simplification mean with respect to photography.  The idea that came to mind was that of minimalism in photography.  So this is my interpretation of minimalist photography.
Salto Sapo - 10
As I reviewed my portfolio for photographs appearing to qualify as minimalist, I came across quite a number of examples.  For this reason, I am making this a four part series on minimalism.
Solomons Dock-3
This first installment features photographs on the water.  Nautical, seascape, or photographs otherwise focused on water related subjects can frequently be classified as minimalist photography.  Often, there are four or fewer objects in the composition; shoreline, water, sky, and perhaps a subject such as a boat, lighthouse, or pier.  These simple elements can often fuse together or transition so subtly that the idea minimalism is easily achieved.
Swan and Sailboat in the Mist - 1
I suppose it would be helpful to define “minimalist” photography.  However, I’m not convinced defining minimalist is a constructive exercise…it is a matter of opinion.  I am not an art academic, your perspective is probably different than mine, and I am quite certain that whatever opinion I hold, my wife will challenge it.
Tiller Refelection
So here are MY thoughts on what qualifies a photograph as minimalist – some combination of the following attributes:
  1. Simple or solitary subject
  2. Lack of a clearly identifiable subject
  3. Uncluttered or very soft background
  4. Monochromatic, minimal or no color (highly desaturated, muted, or black and white)
  5. Low energy – meaning very little motion or potential motion
  6. Graduated transitions rather than harsh lines
I hope you enjoyed this initial exploration of minimalism and will be back for the next three parts.
Have fun, and go make some great photography.

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