Does Minimalism Transform Our Photography for the Better or the Worse?


Minimalism is a term that some photographers downplay and many others overlook. It doesn’t just exclude elements from the image. By accepting that broad meaning, you can change your approach to photography.

“The less, the more,” said Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Bauhaus architect and final director. However, minimalism is not only about reducing the elements of a photo, but also about rejecting everything that is glamorous. Like most art movements, it began in the West as a blame for what came before it. In this case, in part, contemporary art like Pablo Picasso, who later incorporated minimalism. Western art and design first appeared in the United States in the 1960s. But that’s before that. By another name, the style of removing clutter from art and design has been an important part of Japanese culture for centuries. For example, see the following figure.

Created in the early 16th century, Soami’s four-season landscape (eight landscapes of the Akatsuki and Shogawa rivers) has a minimalist aesthetic typical of Japanese culture for hundreds of years. Note that the image on the right should be displayed from right to left first. You can read the reason here.

Like many art movements, its minimalist approach has its roots in philosophy. Zen Buddhism is concerned with reducing irrelevant details from life. In Western philosophy, on the other hand, the movement stems from Gottlob Frege’s work and his examination of philosophical truths.

In photography, minimalism does more than just exclude the subject from the frame. Like any other visual art, images can be considered realistic. In most of the photographs we make, we portray the world around us. Minimalism, on the other hand, requires viewers to react to what is in front of them, rather than trying to express external reality. Minimalist photographs have a sophisticated beauty that represents a harmonious and simple order.

We often find its beauty in the mundane and unexpected by emphasizing abstract geometry. The images also have honest quality, as they do not claim to be more than that. They are not pretending to be anything else. Minimalist photography refuses to portray reality.

To understand this principle, consider the following image. It is the sunrise from the sea and the sun is 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 its meaning. It is not necessarily the sun that illuminates the sea, but only the yellow lines that cross the textured surface.

Minimalist photos are always representative of reality

There is a big difference between most minimalist art and minimalist photography. No matter how hard you try, photography is always a representation of the real world. As a result, our minimalist images may initially be just geometric shapes, but scrutiny or longer consideration reveals the subject. As accepted in modern Gestalt theory, our minds suddenly change from seeing shapes and patterns to recognizing the subject. Therefore, in our art, minimalism can also be seen as a branch of abstract photography.

Use of minimalist photographic techniques

How can you incorporate minimalism into your photos? Our approach to minimalism is to capture existing minimalist subjects or use camera technology to achieve minimalist results.

So you can also look for subjects that are already minimalist, such as modern buildings and everyday property. The design of mobile phones, laptop computers, and some cameras can be minimal. Their format follows their function. Alternatively, in-camera techniques such as achieving shallow depth of field, using long exposures, intentional camera movements, moving extremely close or far away, shooting in fog, or using large negative spaces. Is innumerable.

Design minimalism

In design and architecture, minimalism is the product of architect Luis Sullivan’s idea that form follows function. Leading this doctrine to a logical conclusion, all decorations and decorations are redundant. Inevitably, all that remains is a complete negative space and the essential elements of the design.

Design minimalism differs from photography and visual arts minimalism in that it is theoretically a solution for maximizing functionality. In art and photography, the minimalist approach is conceptual.

Minimalism in everyday life is good.

In recent years, incorporating minimalism into everyday life has become popular and is not without criticism. Marie Kondo talks about getting rid of things that don’t “stir joy” from us. That was true for the 11 million people who bought her Commari Method Book.

This approach is fascinating. On average, households in the United States own more than 300,000. Many of them are useless and only get in the way. When many are homeless and hungry, hoarding junk can be obscene. But critics need to create a “mountain of unwanted things” and, ironically, buy more to fit the minimalist aesthetic in order to achieve this minimalist style. Is called. Moreover, its complete nudity can be overwhelming and oppressive in itself.

Instead of clutter, some argue that it creates room for time and creativity, while others say that space can limit us.

Objects can be inspirational, and removing them from our lives reduces our creativity? After all, many good creative brains were known for the mess of the workplace. Beethoven and Einstein are famous for their clutter, and JK Rowling’s desks are famous for their clutter. Studies show that health choices, generosity, and customs are typical of a decent mind, but disability creates creativity.

Is the fun of minimalism subjective?

As with all artistic things, the enjoyment of minimalism in photography is subjective. I’m much more fond of seeing pictures of very simple compositions, and you might disagree. Nevertheless, there is a dichotomy here. My evaluation of minimalist art and photography is incompatible with my evaluation of glamorous engineering, decorative architecture and decorative design.

I believe that following the minimalist principles of design, removing decorations and sticking to the idea that shape follows function creates a bland, bland ugliness. Therefore, in architecture, wandering through ornate cathedrals, mosques, temples, or palaces can get a greater emotional response than strolling through the rigorous corridors of the most modern buildings. .. Similarly, I’m more inspired by my wife’s 19th century writing office than Pantone’s chair.

I want to see steam locomotives from the 1800s rather than modern trains. Similarly, classic cars are a glamorous beauty, but the simplicity of most modern cars is dull. Next, compare the Mayflower line with the cruise liner line. Even the engineering of London’s Victorian sewer system designed by Joseph Bazarjet is beautiful.

In addition, I believe that beauty and decoration are functions in their own right. Therefore, it should be included in those forms. For example, as I wrote earlier, I much prefer to use an exciting camera to look at and use, rather than a lump of shapeless plastic. The strict adherence that form follows function often ignores it, a concept realized by camera makers with the OM system (Olympus), Fujifilm, and Nikon catching up with the latest releases.

However, contrary to my idea of ​​design, removing extra elements from a photo can usually improve the photo. The aesthetics of a simple and peculiar subject to the sea in a negative space appeals to my heart. Is it yours?

Of course, this summary of minimalism is 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 with me? Or is your view of minimalism my opposite? Please let us know what you think.


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