Often new photographers will write to me and ask me to have a look at their photo galleries and give them some feedback. In doing so I have noticed a recurring theme. People try to include too much in their images. They have tried to capture the grand scene, everything they see in front of them, all in one frame. It is visually confusing without one distinct subject.
One technique I have found useful is to isolate each thing in the scene that draws my attention and photograph it alone. Make each subject is own image and when you put them together they will tell a story. In essence, practice minimalism.
When I visited White Sands National Monument in New Mexico it seemed the perfect opportunity to practice minimalism in my own photography.
The Monument is great white dunes made of gypsum, the same stuff they make drywall with although it looks like sand. If you haven’t been here it might seem like minimalism is the only option, but really there are all sorts of little grasses and dead trees (or at least they were in their winter state), plants, trails marked with sticks, footprints leading everywhere and all kinds of other things to distract one’s attention.
I tried to make the images simple by focusing on one thing alone, such as the line made by the crest of a dune, without any distractions at all. I even removed the colour from this image.
Another image focussed only on shape and colour.
I have always been drawn to minimalist photographs. It is beauty in the simplicity that gives them a sense of peace.
This image included only the lines the wind carved in the dunes.
Sitting on the top of a dune waiting for sunset, it occurred to me that there is an analogy to be made with life in general. In “traditional society” people tend to fill their lives up with too much stuff. Before you know it you have a job, a car, a house, a lawn, a garden, a mortgage, a boat, tons of clothes, some pets, a family, some volunteer work, a membership at the gym and all sorts of other things. We spend all of our waking hours maintaining and taking care of all of these things and then in the blink of an eye our lives are over, each day indistinguishable from the previous one.
Perhaps, similar to photography, to have a life with meaning requires simplicity and minimalism. Own less stuff, do fewer things, but what you do you do with passion.