Apart from the concept of wabi sabi which I wrote about in an earlier blog post there is another concept that has become a major part of my life and that is minimalism.
When guests visit us in our home the first thing they usually notice and comment on is the amount of space we have. This is not only due to the fact that we removed all unnecessary walls in our house and most of the remaining doors are always open but also because we only have the equipment, furniture and decoration we really want and need.
This way we did not only create physical space but more important space for creativity and a wonderful calmness which is so important for us. I always feel that things that are not used or liked as much as they should have an aura of sadness or even worse accusation – they seem to be staring at me constantly, asking to be either used or freed 😉 – and thus they consume a lot of my energy.
So once or twice each year I basically go through all our possessions and give away or sell anything we haven’t used or which we don’t like as much as it deserves. When I started with this it was scary… What if I needed that thing later or what if the other broke and then I did not have a back-up? What if I learned to like it – just needed to try harder maybe? Sometimes that “remorse” got so strong that I even bought the same thing again but in the end my original feelings never changed and I should have just trusted my instincts.
I apply the same minimalist concept also to my art.
One aspect is that I keep as few tools as possible, to allow more space and time for creativity and explorations. I don’t want to spend my time deciding between 10 different cameras, 20 lenses and 30 films – I rather want to focus on the picture itself and my vision. This is also why when I go out to make pictures I only take one camera and one lens (maximum two).
While there is often an increase in equipment during a phase of exploration, for me an essential part of concluding an experiment is always the final check of all the things I used, keeping only the ones that I really like. This way I have found that it is also easier to move on and focus on the next project/experiment.
An example is my exploration of cameras, lenses, films and film processing equipment which made me write this post.
Over the last few years I tried lots of things from digital to analog, different formats, cameras, lenses and films as well as film processing equipment (darkroom and computer) to find out what works best for me. Now I feel finally happy after a few “consolidation rounds” to close that experiment and move my focus from the creation of the picture to the creation of the final print. While I have already optimised my inkjet printing and explored many different paper types to find the ones I like best for my work I now want to put the focus on darkroom printing (especially alternative techniques). I have started my explorations of these techniques beginning of the year but the project was running slowly as I simply did not have the time and energy due to too many other things I was working on. Concluding my “equipment-experiment” gives me that time.
Of course it does not mean that I will never try another camera or lens (just looking into ways to make a pinhole for my 4×5 camera) or film but any further experimentation in those areas will be much more specific to certain projects for example.
Following my minimalist approach I have started to go through all the remaining equipment, assessing each item from cameras to films individually. This happens quite intuitively as I know that logic like “but the specifications of this lens are better” or “that film is cheaper” or “but you have only used it twice” will not make me happy with my decisions in the end and thus I will not be able to truly conclude the experiment. I will simply listen to my intuition as I know which lenses I like best and I know which films give me the look I like, I also know that when I haven’t used something more often than once or twice that there is a reason for it and it is not going to change. So I will hold each item in my hands and ask myself two simple questions “do I like it” and “have I really used it” and I will only keep equipment where the answer to both is yes as I know that I create my best work when I use tools that I like and in the end all the equipment needs to serve just one purpose – help me to turn the vision I have into a picture and ultimately a print.
The final decision about the equipment I keep also reflects another element of my minimalism and that is to keep my processes as basic and simple as possible.
As an example, for over a year now I have a large Jobo processor and so far I have used it twice – yes only two times and that was because it was staring at me :-D. While it is an amazing machine its sheer size makes me feel nearly claustrophobic when I work with it in my little darkroom and more important, I simply miss the closer contact I have with my film when agitating it manually, the nearly meditative movements of my darkroom-dance and the possibility of happy accidents (wabi sabi).
Finally you can find the same minimalist concept also in most of my pictures and I am sure there will be another blog post about this in the future…you are probably getting used to these previews by now ;-). Anyway, here some more pictures from my garden which follow the approach.