Reductionism, as per definition, is the attempt to reduce subjects to their parts in an attempt to simplify the understanding of the whole. The opposite of holism. There is reductionism in cooking. Food reductionism, right, is a kind of puritanism. Cooking ingredients down, slowly, to get the essence of it. And that is what this post is about. Reductionism and photography. Capturing only what is essential with only the tools that are essential. Doing away with the decorative and incidental, which in today’s world of abundance are synonyms for clutter, overloaded menus, filters, presets and endless functions, stuff you actually never need.
It’s increasingly difficult in today’s world to focus on the essential. We’re bombarded with information and stimuli of all sorts. Around the clock we’re fed breaking news and podcasts and whatever. We’re hooked to Facebook, Line, WhatsApp, email and the never-switched-off mobile phone, being constantly bombarded with stuff that actually has little or no effect on our lives. It’s just to fill in the empty space in our existences.
In other words: we’re constantly distracted and forced to pay attention to stuff that actually has nothing to do with our lives, with stuff that doesn’t enhance self-determination and self-awareness in the least.
We’re told this and that will improve our lives. Why would it. One can only promise heaven and earth to the weak, to the indecisive and disbeliever. A balanced mind won’t be distracted.
Yet, we’re preoccupied with stuff that we’re fed like animals in a fattening unit. Over time, if not aware of the dangers, we’re all consuming the same stimuli and we all react to the same inputs.
We all listen to the same stuff, we all listen to the same tunes, no longer able to listen to ourselves; forgetting to listen to what really moves and drives us, what really matters to us and what’s really important to us.
Reductionist photography, that doesn’t mean to lead the life of a hermit. But it means to think twice before. Do I need this? Do I like this? Is this really what enhances my overall awareness and creativity?
We’re overwhelmed by intellectual rubbish these days. What counts is fastest, brightest, funniest, most ridiculous, most courageous and most stupid. But so bombarded with wow effects, confused by absolutely stunning special effects and, yes, masters of Photoshop techniques, let’s get some humility and modesty back in to our lives.
Which brings us back to reductionism and photography.
With reductionism being the theory that every complex phenomenon, every complex situation, can be explained by analyzing the simplest, most basic mechanisms that are in operation during the phenomenon. Reductionism in photography is the practice of simplifying a complex idea, issue, condition or the like, especially to the point of minimizing, obscuring or distorting it.
Reductionism in photography — being able to capture the essence of something. No clutter, no bombast. Just what is. The natural light. A lens. The camera. Any camera. The subject. The situation. Capturing what is. Getting rid of all the nonsense, maybe that is a key to creativity. Being a reductionist.