ASSIGNMENT+TIP #39 MINIMALISM
In the visual arts and music, minimalism is a style that uses pared-down design elements with no unnecessary features. (source). In Europe, its roots can be traced back to movements like Suprematism (1913) and the Bauhaus school of crafts and arts (1919 to 1933).
The word ‘minimal’ was first used in the early 20th century to describe “Black square on a white ground“, a painting by Kazimir Malevich.
He founded Suprematism focused on basic geometric forms, such as circles, squares, lines, and rectangles, painted in a limited range of colours. It was stripped down to the bare essentials and serving nothing else than pure feeling. The artistic piece was not an object serving a purpose anymore, but it could exist ‘ in and for itself, without “things” ’.
Minimalism would grow strong as a movement in New York, during the 60s and 70s as a response to Abstract Expressionism, which had its major figure in Jackson Pollock, where artists sought to express their personal emotions through their art.
The Minimalists felt that Abstract Expressionism was too personal and pretentious.
They rejected the idea that art should reflect the personal expression of its creator and their goal was to make their work totally objective, inexpressive, and non-referential. (source)
Precursors of Minimalism were artists like Yves Klein and his Monochromes, Piet Mondrian, El Lissitzky with the Proun series, Lucio Fontana and many more in Painting as in Graphic Design.
Some reference painters in Minimalism during the 60’s were Frank Stella and Kenneth Noland. This movement embraced sculpture and music as well.
A minimalist style has certainly been taking over again in every field of photography in the last few years. From food photography to travel or fashion, the dominant is a minimal feeling that leaves distractions ‘out of the picture’ and lets you focus on a detail that is important for the photographer.
Whoever thinks minimal = easy will have some hard times achieving the desired result.
Remember that the process that leads you to the ‘essential’ composition is the longest and hardest one.
You have to research and strip down your images from all the ‘unnecessary’ elements to achieve this. It needs to look extremely clean, and precise.
We prepared a list of 7 elements for you, which we recommend you keep in mind when creating a minimal photo.
It is as important as your subject, if not more.
Negative space can define a good photograph from an extraordinary one.
When shooting a landscape, a portrait or architecture, keep in mind that the ‘empty’ space is an essential instrument you can use at your advantage. It will focus the attention of the viewer exactly where you want it and will make your subject stand out.
You need to keep a vigilant eye for it.
You can – and should – be brave with this, but remain conscientious, as there will be no other elements distracting the viewer from mistakes!
Remember that placing objects close to the edge of the frame will draw your eyes to them. Composition is your main focus and once you have established it, you can decide to use colour or not.
As in every other photograph you take, your priority must change if you are shooting in colour rather than in black and white.
Composition will still be equally important but objects/people will have more relevance based on their colour rather than their position.
For a colour minimalist photo you can decide to:
1. Play with opposite colours on the Colour Wheel, It will give energy to your photo and the complementary colours will mutually power themselves up;
2. Use adjacent colours on the colour wheel, it will convey a sense of calm;
3. Use saturated colours to create a strong contrast;
4. Use Muted colours, the tones will be softer and relax the viewer.
As Kandinsky wrote in his “Concerning the Spiritual in Art” (source)
“[…] warm colours will move forward towards the viewer while cold colours will retract.”
You can use this knowledge to your advantage and emphasize specific parts of your picture.