The Avenues, photograph
“Instead their work is usually marked by an economy of means, an apparently everyday sort of relationship with their subject matter.”
– Robert Adams
John Barclay’s blog mini-series on simplicity has gotten me thinking about the the apparent simplicity of much great photography. I use the word apparent because we all know that the appearance of simplicity in most good art belies the difficulty of achieving it.
Sometimes it seems easier to make things more complicated – how’s that for a paradox? In painting, for example, I sometimes had a tendency to put in much more detail than was needed in the work. It was almost as if I was trying to distract the viewer from my lack of design, technique and vision with trivial and unimportant … stuff.
In photography, I can be seduced by crazy lenses, powerful software post-processing and weird lighting and angles. I’m of two minds about this – on the one hand, I love to play with new ideas and approaches and often have felt that “straight” photography was a little boring. On the other hand, I’m aware of the power of a simple, straightforward photograph and how a lot of image trickery can end up feeling gimmicky. I’m sure there is a balance to be pursued in this area.
I like Adams’ phrase “economy of means” – it’s a reminder that you don’t need exotic equipment or technique to create a great picture and that an “everyday sort of relationship” with the subject, while not flashy, can be every bit as potent.