I have this hopelessly romantic notion that ‘spirit of place’ is a metaphysical reality; that as humans we can be in a place and somehow communicate with our surroundings, allow ourselves to feel the emotion that’s wrapped up in the ‘spiritual energy’ of any given location.
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Minimal


‘Newhaven’, photographed from Seaford, East Sussex
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, 24-105mm, 30 seconds @ f/11 ISO 100
LEE Little-Stopper filter.
Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 tripod, Manfrotto 405 Pro Geared Head.
Adobe Lightroom.

“There is a dangerous misconception that our photography, and consequently ourselves, will be taken more seriously if we strive to develop a discernible style.”

Minimal

A few years ago, I mounted a solo exhibition called ‘Minimal’, the culmination of an obsession with the minimal vista and a fascination for minimalist photography; the exhibition offered ‘closure’, permission to vacate the genre and explore other styles.

Too many of us fall victim to the self-imposed limitations of striving to find our own ‘style’. In the quest to become masters of our craft, we study the work of existing masters and notice recurring themes or emotive flavouring, a persistent aesthetic nuance. Logic dictates that we will benefit from consciously steering our own photography in a similar direction. We endeavor to mimic the work of our heroes resulting in potentially dull derivation or alternatively we concentrate on developing our own unique recognisable style. There is a dangerous misconception that our photography, and consequently ourselves, will be taken more seriously if we strive to develop a discernible style. Not that there is anything wrong in having a personal style; on the contrary, it can lead to greater recognition and artistic acceptance. However, it’s not something that should in any way be forced.

Striving for style is counterproductive because it imposes limits on our creativity and we start to ignore anything that falls outside our assumed aesthetic. We cease to develop our inner vision and become disciples to a confabulated direction. The greatest gift we can give ourselves as photographic artists is ‘freedom’; it is freedom that underpins potential success in any creative endeavour. Freedom is pivotal in establishing a solid foundation for expression; artistically speaking, freedom is a pre-requisite for interpretation and the basis of creativity. The fine-art landscape photography genre is all about interpretation, creativity and expression. One of the most enjoyable and rewarding ways we can improve our photography is by keeping the creative window as wide-open as possible; rather than striving to find our style, if we relish our creative freedom, our style will eventually find us.

In the intervening years since my exhibition, I’ve enjoyed exploring more pictorialist and impressionistic styles, but this month I am having a long over-due dalliance with minimalism again. It is such an evocative style, negative space provides powerful emphasis of features that might otherwise pass unnoticed and simplification of colour allows optimal expression of mood. Of all the possible landscape styles, minimalism is probably my favourite. For now.

This article first appeared in Outdoor Photography Magazine. Reproduced with kind permission.