What does minimalist mean? There are a lot of different 'versions' by photographers. For me I look at the following :
- Clean, uncluttered image
- A strong focal element
- Leading lines
- Black & white
When I first got into photography I very rarely if ever converted my photos into black & white. With exposure to the internet and other photographers I slowly became aware of other ways of displaying my work. I found myself drawn more and more towards black and white images. I started to follow other photographers and then developed my own style. It's fairly well known that I like the minimalist image and that combined with black & white it's my strongest genre - in my opinion anyway.
Why the above criteria :
- By its definition it is minimal. As you can see in my images there is often only one, maybe 2 elements in the photo. At most 3 but never more. I'm very critical about what I'll put forward under this genre. I believe it is one of those genres where you have to be true to its form.
- As it is a minimal image your focal element, whatever it may be, needs to be strong. It needs to grab the viewers attention. Evoke emotion and connection. Your viewer doesn't have a lot to look at in the image so what is there must make an impact.
- Leading lines work for this genre. Lead your viewer through your image. Keep them in the image.
- But balance it at the same time. As a photographer you will immediately see if your photograph has balance. That is something you learn as you shoot more often. It can't be taught.
- Why Black & White - I've done a few minimal images in colour but for me the strength of the genre lies in black and white. Colour detracts from an image. My top image has a fantastic blue sky but the bird in the shot - which for me is the shot - would be lost in the blue sky. Your eye will fight between the 2. In the words of Ted Grant - "When you photograph people in colour, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in Black and White, you photograph their souls!"
Under most circumstances a photographer will go out with an intention of producing a certain set of images. Be it a studio shoot, a city walk, a trip to a game reserve. I never use this method to shoot my minimalist shots. It simply doesn't work. What the eye sees when out and what it sees on the computer screen are vastly different.
Most of your minimalist shots will come from shoots such as city shoots. Here your sense of sight - the ability to pinpoint what will work as a minimalist shot - remembering that often it might be the smallest part of an image - is working against your other senses of smell, hearing, touch. I'm noise intolerant so for me it is almost impossible to block out noise in the city sufficiently in order to pinpoint what would work. I may identify one or two objects and take shots of them but that would never be my final image.
Most of my minimalist images are purely accidental. How do I do it. I will download my images. If I think there is potential I'll do a quick crop and convert to black and white - if I like what I see I work it - if I don't I move past it. It is that simple. I don't overthink this. I don't spend hours editing. It works or it doesn't.
And that is the beauty of finding your genre - you will instinctively know what does and doesn't work and you will follow your gut instincts. You will find as you refine your skills the time you spend editing or thinking an image reduces. This is why although it is good for us to shoot across all genres - for experience in different styles and to learn our cameras - I believe it is important for us to have a unique genre that speaks to us. It will be in this genre that the artist in us will come out and play and the technical photographer will be left in the dust.
In the chaos that is my life the simple, clean lines of black & white minimalist photography soothes my soul. A silent meditation for me to reconnect with my inner self. Allowing me to find my focal point with a leading line to direct me down the path I need to go, while striking balance between all the chaos. And while the colour will always be reflected the black and white will allow me to see the deeper inner soul which I am connecting with.