The Minimalist Photographer
You see them at the top of just about every post on this blog: professional, evocative photos that are not just illustrative or pretty, but are tied to a deeper idea related to the topic. I choose them for various reasons. Sometimes when I am not sure what I’ll write about, looking at a photo with a certain depth, mood, composition, tonal value, treatment of subject matter, or abstraction of subject matter will pull those thoughts into better focus, help me to know my own mind. Other times I need a certain treatment of the subject matter, and request a photo of it. In both cases, it helps to be married to the photographer, Steve Johnson.
The Guy Behind the Camera
The Minimalist Photographer is the latest product of Steve’s long career in the visual arts. I first got to know his work as a member of an online artist support forum back in the year 2000. His bright, energetic, colorful expressionist paintings appealed to me immediately, as did his observations and interaction with everyone on the forum. He was unpretentious and really thought things through; there was also a consistency in his approach that was practical and honest. By the time we met up a couple of years later, I knew I wanted him in my life for keeps.
During the first part of our marriage, we painted, opened an art gallery and ran an art fair–and digital cameras were in the process of becoming more affordable. As long as a camera was fully automatic and cheap, I was happy, because I used cameras primarily to record before and after photos for landscape design clients and documentation of our artwork and art in the gallery. Steve, however, was fascinated by what could be done with digital images, both in the camera and on the computer. And it showed. When we came across a full-featured dSLR that cost less than a house payment, there was no question that it was going to be his next medium.
In spite of continuing budgetary restraints, or perhaps because of them, Steve’s artistic and intellectual curiosity enabled him to work past limitations in equipment and software to turn out photographs that held their own against those taken with the trust fund-level gear that was supposedly required. There was an important lesson lesson here: marketers and an old guard mentality were having undue influence on digital photography as an art form. It was time to change this.
Blogging and digital publishing evolved right along with digital cameras in the past few years, and Steve found his niche in explaining his approach and techniques and sharing them on his Minimalist Photography 101 blog, as well as in various ebooks. In time, his work was noticed by Rocky Nook, a publishing company that specializes in digital photography books. This led to the writing of The Minimalist Photographer, which will be available in both print and digital versions in April. He has also consolidated his old blog and a couple others into a beautiful and comprehensive site, complete with shop, at theminimalistphotographer.com.
Naturally, I’m very excited about the book’s publication, having watched it grow from a concept to reality. But the book’s message and approach to photography also appeals to me as a minimalist, as it gets to the heart of having the results you want without getting sidetracked by too much stuff and too much spending. It also gets to the heart of authenticity, encouraging you to be the person/artist/photographer that you really are, and not what others tell you that you ought to be. And, of course, it has lots of great photographs.
From the book’s blurb:
This book covers photography from a minimalist perspective, proving that it is possible to take very good photographs with relatively cheap equipment. The minimalist process emphasizes the importance of first knowing what you want to achieve as a photographer and then choosing the most effective equipment, subject matter, and general approach to meet your goals. The minimalist photographer works with the idea that the brain and the eye are far more important than the camera.
Author Steve Johnson begins by asking you, the reader, to look inward and make the connections between your nature and your photography. Why do you want to take photographs and what subject matter are you attracted to? What type of photographer are you now and what type of photographer would you like to become? These are important questions to consider when deciding what approach works best for you.
In subsequent chapters, you’ll learn about the equipment and workflow of a minimalist photographer as Johnson discusses the strengths and weaknesses of various types of cameras and explains why the biggest or most expensive piece of equipment is not always the best. He also addresses the importance of lighting and teaches you how to achieve effective lighting without spending a lot of money.
Also included are discussions about aesthetics and composition, as well as a brief history of photography and the future of the art form.
The Minimalist Photographer