Chuck Kirchner | Photography: Culture, Ritual, and Spirit | Minimalism and Simplicity in Photography

Minimalism and Simplicity in Photography

January 29, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

An amazing documentary: "Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things". Not overly preachy, not demanding, but insightful. Highly recommend. (I saw it in Netflix streaming.)


Since watching it, I've given a lot of thought about my go-to photography style - simplicity - and minimalism. Minimalism in photography - is it different than simplicity?  Hmm. I think minimalism, to me at least, is more abstract, stressing a thought or emotion in as simple a way as possible. Simplicity is removing extraneous components from an image (in camera, of course!) but still with a sense of realism. Maybe these are artificial constructs in my own mind. But isn't that what really matters anyway?  Both concepts work for me and are important elements of much of my photography.

Think of Philip Glass, the important minimalist composer. Repetition, notes within a narrow bandwidth, mesmerizing for many, hypnotic, trance inducing. Unconventional, complex in its own way. I wouldn't call his work simple. 

To me the following photographs fit int the minimalist camp - more about an emotion or feeling, tranquility in these instances. The realism of the subject matter is not particularly important (though recognizable). The conveying of feeling is key.         






Compare these with the following photos which I consider to convey simplicity. Realism, but without anything extraneous. Do I need to show anymore of the person handing the child a gift? Just enough face showing to know the arm is attached to someone!  And, again, framing tightly to show enough of the kid in green on the right to ground the photograph, but not add information that's not needed to convey the happiness of the children.  The portrait of the young woman doesn't need a full body shot nor just a front head shot - angle and framing emphasis physique and intensity (in the eyes) of this dancer. And the sunset - well, I know we all shoot sunsets - we can't help ourselves. But adding a "simple" element like the tree branches adds grounding and a personal touch to the image.



You may or may not agree with my interpretation of minimalism and simplicity, which is perfectly fine. But I did want to give you my thoughts on the subject and encourage you to visualize and then "capture" using your film or digital camera a simple or minimalism image, however you define the terms. It's not often easy, but can result in powerful photographs.


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