Minimalism is “when there isn’t much”!
What is minimalism
Let’s start with the definition. Minimalism, sometimes referred to as ABC art, minimal art, reductiveism, or rejective art, appeared along with pop art in the United States in the 1950s, and its popularity increased during the 1960s and 1970s. Minimalism retains only what is most necessary and frees itself from what is unimportant. Minimalism is characterized by its peace, tranquility and space. Attention is focused only on a few present objects, whose task is to express an idea.
Minimalism in photography
Minimalism in photography has long been nothing new. He is as subjective as in other artistic fields, and completely open in his interpretation. The final impression is solely on the viewer’s imagination. What seems simple and reassuring to one may strike the other as deep and complex, and may have no meaning to the other. And sometimes less can actually be more. However, it is not always just a matter of “as little as possible” in the photograph. The supposed emptiness, uniform surfaces, lines, isolated objects, horizons, composition, contrast and color together tell the story of every minimalist photograph. The success of minimalism as a technique of composing photographs stems mainly from the fact that when there are fewer components, the viewer’s eye is automatically drawn to the essential, carefully prepared subjects that are inside the image. At the same time, the surrounding empty space leaves the viewer to come to his own conclusions and use his own creativity a bit. This technique is very successfully applied especially to photographs of still lifes, architecture, landscape, but also portrait or nude. However, it can also be used very well in wildlife photography. Many minimalist wildlife photographs are thematically reduced to a sharp main subject between a blurred foreground and background. But that would be quite a few. The minimalist concept of depicting wildlife opens up many other possibilities for the photographer.
Minimalism = simplification
It follows from the very essence of the name itself that the author should try to simplify the image as much as possible. However, this simplification has its limits. The goal is to achieve simplicity of expression, not meaningless or even boring scenes. This places great demands on the author’s thinking, observation and creativity. It is necessary to carefully examine how much information to keep in the image and how much to remove without losing its informative value. Each scene and each image is unique and requires a strictly individual approach.
Composition comes first
This is very closely related to the creation of a perfect composition. Of course, the tried-and-tested rule of thirds, sometimes even more subtle division of the image layout, will help. The choice of symmetry or, conversely, the asymmetrical location of the main, often very small object, is then one of the key decisions about the future impression of the whole scene. This must remain the most important element in the image for the viewer’s eye. It often pays to experiment with the composition and go beyond the established rules. Helpful Hint: Assess the correct composition in a heavily scaled-down image that recognizes only the main components of the image.
Empty must not be unnecessary
Due to the reduction of elements in the image, large areas of so-called negative (“empty”) space are created in minimalist photographs. However, it should definitely not be empty. It can be smooth, uniform, structured, colored. It may even contain a composition that does not interfere with details delayed by blurring, absence or excess light, or dimming of colors. These are often clouds in a cloudy sky, a calm surface of the lake, wavy snow cover, a dense haze of fog, a flowering meadow, a harvested field, a rock wall, reeds, a wall of forest. Negative space helps to determine where in the image the eye of the observer is directed. It’s visual flesh. It depends on its size and location. It is the key to the balance between it and the main subject of the image. The negative space is very effectively complemented by lines and shapes in the image, which reliably lead the viewer’s eye to the main subject and do not disturb the simplicity of the scene in any way. These can be terrain irregularities, light and shadow transitions, contours of natural resources (branch, stone, moss, sea wave), sharp and out of focus lines. There are countless possibilities.
Color: yes and no
In many cases, I deliberately do not always say, minimalist photos can be used to enhance the austerity of black and white. However, this may not be the case unconditionally. Conversely, color can very well complement reduced image elements. Because we are talking about minimalism, there should not be many colors used. To enhance economy, one to two colors or their shades should suffice. Ideally, these should be so-called complementary colors, harmonizing with each other, known very well from painting. They should emphasize and complement simplicity, not distort it. Whether the resulting photo is black and white or color, the contrast between them is ultimately important. Harmonious if possible, but bold at the same time.
Focal points and angles
For the final assessment of images at home at the computer, it is good to try different options during the exposure beforehand. One of them is different focal lengths. Depending on the specific subject and settings, changing the focus may radically change the image for the better. However, the use of a wider focus places greater demands on the correct choice of composition. With a longer glass, it’s a little easier. The challenge is even greater for the photographer.
Speaking of lenses. The captured space is often crowded with disturbing details. Looking from above or from a frog’s perspective can often greatly simplify the image and eliminate distractions. Many unwanted distractions can be eliminated by simply tilting the lens. Therefore, consider in advance what the scene might look like when changing the angle of view.
Also, the various settings on the camera (aperture, time, exposure compensation) greatly expand the possibilities of highlighting the main subject of the scene.
Minimalist photography is a great technique that we can experiment with. Learning to tell visual stories effectively with fewer elements is an important skill that can open up unsuspected possibilities and help you achieve great results in proven photographic disciplines, such as landscape, architecture or portrait, but also in wildlife photography. The limited number of elements will force the author to think much more about the image and look for the deepest possible informative value of the image. This can push the boundaries of our artistic abilities. Such could be the evocative power of the art of minimalism for any photographer.