Keeping things simple doesn’t mean taking it easy. Sometimes it’s harder to leave things out when composing an image than to include them. There can be a temptation to cram everything in, to show it all in a single image. However, often your subject will have more impact on the viewer if it stands alone, free of clutter. This is something I try for in all my photography; leaving the non-essentials out of an image.
But sometimes keeping it simple isn’t enough; I want to strip away almost everything to create a truly minimalist image. To be considered minimalist an image should be very clean, with a single point of focus. It will probably have a lot of negative space: areas that are empty of any significant content. That may sound boring but by placing your main subject in one small part of the image you can create maximum impact.
Composition matters more than ever in a minimalist shot. Generally the rule of thirds is a great guide to the placement of your subject, but sometimes breaking the rule to create a more symmetrical image can be effective. I have no idea why this is so or whether the variations that please me will also please others.
You can also achieve minimalism in editing, using photo effects to simplify a shot and draw attention to a single element within it. A high key edit can work well for this, as can conversion to black and white. My feature photo, taken at Brimham Rocks in Yorkshire, is an example of a deliberately minimalist edit, as is the Sussex rose below.
Another way of achieving a minimalist shot is to focus on a detail. By eliminating most of your subject you can create a more abstract photo with minimal clutter. I’ve done that with my detail of a house in Reykjavik and the barbed wire at Tuol Sleng. The latter is the notorious Khmer Rouge interrogation and extermination centre, now a museum. To me this small detail conveyed the chilling atmosphere in a different, but equally chilling, way to more general images of its cells.
I’m interested to see what you make of my contributions to this week’s Lens Artists Challenge theme. Sofia proposes that we share images that are either minimalist or maximalist or a selection of both. As I’m so fond of the former I have pulled out some examples from my archives that fit my own definition of the term!
Grass at White Sands, New Mexico
Sunset in Senegal
Reeds in the Okavango Delta, Botswana
Bougainvillea at the Royal Palace in Luang Prabang
Autumn in Kyoto
Banana leaf in Kerala
Table mat detail, Leipzig
Adobe building in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Building at Trinity Buoy Wharf, on the Thames in east London
House in Reykjavik, Iceland
House in Whitstable, Kent
Paddle boarder, Sal, Cape Verde
Fisherman on the Mekong, southern Laos
Barbed wire at Tuol Sleng, Phnom Penh
Rose in a Sussex garden