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My Take on Minimalist Photography

I can't help but find so much time on my plate now, what about you? I'm guessing your daily schedule is still pretty much the same as the week before, very much within the confines of your house. Well, of course, it should be the case. And if you've not read about the recent film photography project that I came up with during my stay at home, you can click over here.

minimalism is (arts) a style of art that emphasises extreme simplicity of form while minimalist is one who believes in or seeks a minimal state; one who seeks to minimize or reduce to a minimum. — WikiDiff, Minimalism vs Minimalist - What's the difference?

minimalist black and white coffee cup

My humble attempt at minimalist photography

Just like one of the many self-proclaimed minimalists who believe in 'less is more', I enjoy weaving in minimalist notions into my photographs. But before we get into the whole discussion of what exactly minimalist photography is, let us look back into the history of minimalism, or what they would call minimal art.

Meaning to say, we cannot begrudge society for imposing on us a difficult burden, because we too are responsible for choosing the things we bring into our lives.

The history of minimalism dates back to between the late 1950s and early 1960s when famous artists started detracting from the highly academic and stale art, ideas which were passed on from the previous generation. Their focus was on constructing abstract art that was simple, tone neutral and something which could express the simplicity of minimal art itself. In today's context, minimalism finds its way into the rigorous and fast-paced lifestyles which if one were to have a comprehension of, involves a dynamic relationship between societal culture and norms interacting with the individual lifestyle choices. Meaning to say, we cannot begrudge society for imposing on us a difficult burden, because we too are responsible for choosing the things we bring into our own lives.

black & white picture of a HDB void deck

On the vague assumption that I haven't cleared my YouTube watch history, my first instance of contact with minimalism was during 2016 when I was in search of a minimal wardrobe for men. Seems funny to me now, to find out that minimalism first had me looking for a simple and workable system that would bring order to my chaotic lifestyle. Back then, minimalism also seemed to become increasingly popular, both as a trendy idea and a way of life. The latter being helmed by key Japanese minimalists like Fumio Sasaki (he wrote a book called Goodbye, Things and it was 'minimalist-ically' inspiring to me) and Marie Kondo.

Some random void deck in Singapore

But, I digress. There are many ways that one can keep things simple (what an oxymoron) and the methods that people approach minimalist photography range from creating negative space to utilising geometric patterns. My personal favourite is to employ light and shadows into my photographs or in my own words - 'shadow play' (had me thinking about the traditional Indonesian art of shadow puppet play, Wayang Kulit). Below are some of the pictures which I took during my travel in India in 2019, shot and edited exclusively on my phone.

In India, an Indian guard One of the many Indian palaces

My second favourite style to minimalist photography is the use of textures, which at the moment I don't have a very good example to showcase and it is also a stylised approach which I am still trying to incorporate into my photographs. (Hint: It's macro with this Fotasy lens adaptor that is still shipping). But the best illustration that comes to mind is The Rabbit in the Snowstorm.

Wilson Fisk and The Rabbit in the Snowstorm

Credits to Netflix

I hoped you were able to recognise the picture. But if you were unable to, it is the favourite painting of Wilson Fisk (aka Kingpin) from the Marvel Universe as portrayed in the Netflix drama series, Daredevil. Yes — a whitewashed painting.

If you were to observe carefully, you would be able to identify the visually palatable ruggedness and edge from what I would call, a bad paint job. Therein lies the use of textures, one of the methods to minimalist photography, in some sense. To end it off, I would like to just say, don't just focus on the clinical aspects of photography, let your art form take a shape of its own and explore how it makes you feel.

Here are some of my favourite minimalist photographers. They are @superordinarylife (general life), @seantuck (street) and @marithamae (weddings).


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