The photography genre minimalism

It’s no lie that Minimalism is the direct contrast and was brought to light from the juxtaposition of over-consumption. All trends start from the opposite, a rebellious movement around social norms. Minimalism isn’t new, its aesthetic has been around since the 1600s from Japan. Then later the word ‘minimalism’ was coined as an art movement in the 1960s. Today it is associated with an aesthetic and the juxtaposition of hoarders. But what I am interested about the photography genre minimalism is the appeal. The need, want and visually pleasing nature of minimalism.


When we think of minimalism we all know Micheal Kenna & his beautiful minimalistic landscape photographs. And we know the beautiful paintings by Mark Rothko & the massive structures by Richard Serra. All these artists only show and use the fundamentals to portray and present an impact on the viewer. What is it about stripping something down to the bare minimum, the bones of a thought, idea or object that makes it so beautiful, mesmerising, unique and powerful?

Some people love lots of colour, movement, features, functions, gadgets and general abundance. In contrast to that, there are people that only want the bare essentials. Objects and items that are crucial to one’s existence or humble enjoyment.

“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


Consumer culture wants everything. By obtaining material objects, one puts the value on external ownership as one’s status. Minimalism is a movement that is trying to fill the void created by abundance. Simplicity helps one to focus on what is meaningful. Directing ones worth not on obtaining material objects, but on one’s character and actions.

I believe this goes the same for minimalism in photography. Removing everything that doesn’t add value. This helps to stop distractions, helping guide the viewer to what is relevant.

A.B Watson's photography in minimalism style


The rules of composition have been around since the Renaissance. Colour theory, perspective, leading lines, negative space, texture, the list goes on. These tools play a large part in the genre of minimalism in photography. Be it a tree surrounded by negative space in a lake. Some might find it boring and lacking content, where others might find is beautifully abundant in metaphoric symbolism.

Though the uncarved block is small No one in the world dare claim its allegiance, (XXXII, 72) – Tao Te Ching

Minimalism is easy, not in execution but in understanding. There is always one idea, one concept, one character. Minimalism gives one space to breathe and contemplate. Space around a subject can portray strength symbolising in one’s individuality. Minimalism is strength, contentment, passion and discipline. Minimalism is humble, content, clear & we all know the saying less is more. Photography is a craft that tells a story that shows us what the artist or subject matter sees. Minimalism is one of the easiest visual aesthetic genres to understand.


I hope the next time you see an artwork that is minimalistic in nature, you stop and breathe. Contemplate what it is trying to convey to you. You might realise that by leaving everything out, nothing is left unsaid.

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