In this new series photographer and analogue enthusiast Simeon Smith talks about the use of minimalism in photography and how he applied this method to his own work. He tested out the Lomo’instant Wide, with some interesting results.
Most photography is, inevitably, realist. The cameras, lenses and films that we use are, usually, designed to capture what is in front of them, and most photographers, myself included, have only ever tried to make photos of the real world. Sure, we might get surrealist with some double exposures, we might try our hand at impressionism with
some soft focus and blown out bokeh, but when I pick up a camera, it has always been to capture something I can see. This month, I wanted to change that. I’ve always loved minimalism’s ability to show possibilities, rather than absolutes. I think it’s because that’s how I see life. When I see empty space on a canvas and simple shapes, my mind travels looking for things to fill the spaces, thinking what might have been painted, what could have filled the geometry. And to me, life is the same, when I look to future I don’t want to clutter it with the detail of a life plan. Instead I want to dream of a thousand possibilities.
Thinking about how I might express this through photography, I stumbled across the amazing work of Chris Friel, who uses Intentional Camera Movement (aka ICM, if you want to sound cool / pretentious) to capture beautiful abstract landscapes. If you’re not familiar with his work, check out his amazing use of colour and movement. I wanted to create something inspired by Chris and other ICM work I’d found, but even more paired down. Enter the Lomo’Instant Wide. It’s packed with features, but what I was interested in was the bulb mode, and the ability to do multiple exposures. I hoped the tone and unique colouring of instant photography would also add interest to the sparse images.
I read quite a lot online beforehand about ICM, techniques and ideas, but I really didn’t know how to create some of the effects I wanted, so a lot of it was left up to good old trial and error. The main things to get right seemed to be long exposures of around half a second, moving the camera in a way that isn’t necessarily consistent, and working with colour and composition, as you’re not going to have a lot of texture or depth in the image. Given that I didn’t have the option of choosing a low ISO film for longer exposures, I had to work in relatively low light: evening on a pretty gloomy day, and a very overcast morning. I was surprised to see how summery these photos turned out given the conditions.
I found it quite difficult changing my mindset to look for colours in a setting I could manipulate, rather than looking for interesting subjects. It was liberating to forget about
focus, depth of field, and all the other things that clutter my mind when I’m out shooting with my Leica. I was just thinking about colour and composition. I scanned these photos without their typical instant photography border. I wanted them to be as devoid of context as possible, allowing the viewer more mental space.
Although a few subjects are obvious, I almost don’t want to tell you what I shot, because I think that would take away from some of the images. These photographs are about possibilities, about finding meaning in the unknown, not about technique or substance.