“P7032221” Abstract Photo by Jos

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"P7032221" by Jos

There are a great number of people out there that abstract minimalist photography is easy.  To that, I simply shake my head at their ignorance.  If you’ve ever tried, you are well aware that it’s difficult to create a minimalist composition that looks appealing.  So today I would like to share with you an example of a great minimalist abstract photo, P7032221 (shown here), by a photographer I only know as Jos.

Observing a minimalist abstract photograph can be quite thought provoking and fun.  You can turn it into a game.  What exactly am I looking at?  How large or small is the subject?  Where was this taken?  So lets play – I’ll take a guess, and then you try (leave a comment below).  And no cheating!  That takes from the fun.  I think that we’re looking through a pane of glass, and the beams are crossing structural support.  I think the shadows cast are on the other side.  The texture is created by the dirt and condensation on the glass.  I think I’m in an atrium.

That was fun, wasn’t it?  But see, I tricked you.  That exercise we just went through made us really think about the photo.  Whether consciously or not, we were considering every aspect of the photo setup:  The orientation of the camera, the light sources, textures and so on.  We can of course do that with any photo, but when you are observing minimalist abstract – where you don’t really know what you’re looking at – it can be that much more interesting.

So let’s get down to why I’m sharing P703221 with you today (other than to trick you into analyzing photos).  As I mentioned earlier, minimalism isn’t as easy as it looks.  It is just a trick of the photographer, Jos in this case, to make it look easy.  Truth be told – be it from lots of experience or a large amount of thought – photographs like this don’t come naturally.  The subject matter is the entire photograph, so there’s no single element that can be overlooked.  Composition is key.  This is one of the very few times where I will say the rules matter greatly – because there isn’t much room for artistic license.  Jos’s job was to create a composition that is appealing to an observer – any observer, regardless of their art background.  Technical details of this shot matter very little compared to the composition.

The strongest element within the photograph are the cross-bars.  Where they fall matters greatly.  Jos did not place them centered on the shot.  That would be boring.  He also didn’t strictly follow the widely known rule of thirds.  The vertical and horizontal component actually fall roughly a quarter of the way from the edges.  On their own, the cross-bars would have been uninteresting in such a composition.  However, there are shadows at play as well.  The most prominent shadow is the thickest shadow horizontally oriented in the frame.  You will note that this falls right into the rule of thirds – a third of the way from the bottom.  Additionally, there is a prominent diagonal shadow that extends at about a 40° angle from the very bottom-left corner.  Finally, there is a quality of light and weight.  The brightest and largest square aligns to the bottom and left edges.  The remaining sections of the glass are cut-off and darker than the main square.  This establishes a heirarchy.  Your eyes do not wander to the other sections, they are naturally drawn to the cross of the horizontal shadow and the diagonal shadow.  The emphasis on that area is cemented by the bright halo (of sorts) around that intersection.   To re-frame this shot in any way would ultimately result in one of those pieces falling out of place.

So as you can, see, there is quite a lot to think about when shooting minimalist abstract photos.  The result is a soothing and comforting piece of minimalist art that blurs the lines between the photography world and the painting world.  Daresay the vision behind this photograph is not unlike the vision behind Piet Mondrian and the Neoplasticists (De Stijl).  Is it a coincidence that Jos resides in the Netherlands, where the De Stijl movement orginated in the early 1900’s?

I, for one, am happy to have stumbled upon Jos’s work, and we are happy to have him as part of the Shutter Photo @ Flickr Group.  Be sure to drop by the Flickr Page for P7032221 and leave a comment.  Also be sure to check out his photostream for more of his photographic works – you will find a great deal of evidence of Jos’s talents and vision.  .

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About Author

D. Travis North is a professional Landscape Architect, a Freelance Photographer and founder of Shutter Photo. Ever since he picked up his first SLR, his father's Nikon N2000, he's been hooked on photography. Travis likes to photograph urban environments, architectural details and has a new-found interest in close-up photography. His work can be found at D. Travis North Photography. Follow Travis on twitter: @dtnorth.

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