What is Minimalist Photography?

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by UncleRico, Feb 22, 2009.

  1. UncleRico

    UncleRico TPF Noob!

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    I don't want to be to "out there," but a recent thread by SympL has really gotten me thinking. What exactly is minimalist photography? I think SympL's work is fantastic, and I want to learn more about the minimalist approach he takes in his photos.

    This thread is not targeted towards him directly, although I'd love to hear his perspective. I thought I would try to start a conversation about this with the group to see what other people think about the subject.

    What makes an image minimalist? Is it minimal in subject, color, tonal range, etc. Is it trying to convey deep emotion simply? As someone who appreciates poetry, this genre intrigues me.

    I liken this approach to photography to that of the Imagist poets, which was comprised of people, such as Ezra Pound, Amy Lowell, and William Carlos Williams.

    To define the movement, the poets created the Imagist Manifesto, which outlined the following tenants of Imagist poetry (paraphrased from source: http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/g_l/amylowell/imagism.htm)

    1. To use the language of common speech, but to employ always the exact word, not the nearly-exact, nor the merely decorative word.
    2. To create new rhythms -as the expression of new moods -- and not to copy old rhythms, which merely echo old moods.
    3. To allow absolute freedom in the choice of subject.
    4. To present an image (hence the name: "Imagist"). We are not a school of painters, but we believe that poetry should render particulars exactly and not deal in vague generalities, however magnificent and sonorous. It is for this reason that we oppose the cosmic poet, who seems to us to shirk the real difficulties of his art.
    5. To produce poetry that is hard and clear, never blurred nor indefinite.
    6. Finally, most of us believe that concentration is of the very essence of poetry.
    In conjunction with this post, I've started a assignment thread titled "Minimalist photography" http://www.thephotoforum.com/forum/...challenges/157234-minimalist-photography.html

    The inspiration of the assignment will be a poem from an Imagist poet.

    Talk amongst yourselves (said in my best Linda Richman voice)!

    Ryan
     
  2. craig

    craig TPF Noob!

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    Check out the work of Man Ray. Also check out the Miksang movement What is Miksang?

    Love & Bass
     
  3. UncleRico

    UncleRico TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the post, Craig. I'll check them both out.

    Ryan
     
  4. craig

    craig TPF Noob!

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    No problem! I also posted a photo in your Minimalist Assignment thread.

    Love & Bass
     
  5. Chairman7w

    Chairman7w TPF Noob!

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    ok
     
  6. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    "What is Minimalist Photography?"

    Something that I passed without noticing soon after plunking down over $10,000 in photography gear... lol
     
  7. Gomes

    Gomes TPF Noob!

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    If I poop on a canvas and write about how hip and abstract it is I can probably call it art. But if I lose the explaination, its just poop. Same goes for anything like this. If you didn't read the concept and just looked at the picture you probably wouldn't be impressed.
     
  8. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    The difficulty here is that a style of poetry is being used as a guide to a style of photography. This is assuming two things:
    Photography is equivalent to Language.
    Photography is subservient to Language.
    Neither is true, though we often assume it.
    Photography is a form of communication but it does not work in the same way as a language so to try to define a style of Photography by using a style of writing as a guide is doomed from the start.
    Actually, minimalist photography was most popular at the time of the flowering of the minimalist composers (Adams, Reich, Glass et al) and shares more with their approach than with poetry.
    A group of us explored minimalist photographic approaches when we were at College ('79 - '82), seeing just how little you needed in an image and have it still work. It boils down to composition, structure, lighting, tone and texture. These are the same as the major elements present in any photograph but in minimalist work there is no 'noise' (other objects) in the image to distract you from them.
    In fact it is quite possible to construct an image that is interesting an effective from light and shadow alone.
    One of the key photographers who influenced us at the start was Ralph Gibson. If you are not familiar with his work then check him out. His pictures have far more impact and effect than any poem ;)
     
  9. abraxas

    abraxas No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Simplicity:
    the understanding of what is and is not important in a design. Details that do not have a major impact to the design are omitted to keep it uncluttered.
    bluemoonwebdesign.com/art-glossary-4.asp

    Elegance:
    a quality of neatness and ingenious simplicity in the solution of a problem (especially in science or mathematics); "the simplicity and elegance of his invention"
    wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

    Minimalism:
    an art movement in sculpture and painting that began in the 1950s and emphasized extreme simplification of form and color
    wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn
     
  10. UncleRico

    UncleRico TPF Noob!

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    Hi, Hertz.

    Thank you and the others for your replies. You offer an interesting point of view, but I just wanted to clarify a few things from my first post.

    1) I did not say that I thought the points in the Imagist Manifesto were to be used as a “guide to style” for the minimalist photographic movement, but rather they seemed similar to what I perceived the genre to include.

    2) I mainly included the points as reference for someone who might not be familiar with the poetic movement.

    I’m not making any such assumption. In my (albiet novice) opinion, both are forms of communication used to present ideas and convey emotion. Neither is better than the other, only better suited for some audiences. I would assume that in a photography forum, more people would find photography as a stronger means of communication, but would the same be true in a poetry forum (possibly, this is a not sarcastic comment)?

    This to me sound very similar to the Imagist tenants 1, 4 and 5 above. It's about making an intentional effort to produce an image that is simple, and without "vague generalities."

    I will have to check him out. Thanks for what I consider to be a though provoking post.

    Regards,

    Ryan
     
  11. TheDev

    TheDev TPF Noob!

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    I think the 1. from the imagist manifesto is the most important thing to think about here. Words are not black and white for every emotion felt there is exact word to describe the feeling down to the T.

    Minimalist photography means to me being able to convey a strong message with as little as possible. All art is meant to present an emotion or idea. Sometimes artist will hold your hand and lead you to exactly what they are trying to say. Others are to abstract that without an explanation from the artist it is hard for most people to understand. In minimalist photography There is enough in the picture for the viewer to understand what is being said after all the pieces are put together like a jigsaw puzzle. It requires a certain amount of thought.

    It is not simplicity in color or tonal range because those are compositional aspects. Composition is an element of making a good photograph.

    Therefore in my opinion, minimalist photography refers to the subject or mood that the photograph is trying to achieve.
     
  12. Torus34

    Torus34 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    In the past, I've noted that the painter and the photographer start from opposite ends to achieve the same goal -- a picture with something to say. The painter begins with a blank canvas to which he adds and adds until he has added just enough. The photographer begins with the universe in his viewfinder and then subtracts and subtracts until he has subtracted just enough.

    I should think that 'minimalist' implies nothing more than a shift toward 'less', perhaps rather subtly, in the interpretation of the phrase 'just enough'. High key work, though not particularly subtle, comes immediately to mind.
     

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