Monthly Essay: Less is more

Empty vlei - Namibia

Empty vlei – Namibia

Who strive – you don’t know how the others strive
To paint a little thing like that you smeared
Carelessly passing with your robes afloat,-
Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,
(I know his name, no matter) – so much less!
Well, less is more, Lucrezia. 

That would be the first time the notion of simplicity and clarity leading to fine design would be encapsulated in three single words: “Less is more”. Years later, the architect and furniture designer Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, one of the founders of modern architecture and an advocate of simplicity of style, would adopt that sentence and work philosophy, leading to the public mistakenly assuming him to be at the origin of that expression.

Winter hill - Switzerland

Winter hill – Switzerland

I have always thought that simplicity and economy of means and energy constitute the basic truths of universal value. During my years in a scientific background, I learnt how all processes in nature happen in ways which minimize the amount of energy needed. Beehives and basalt columns are constituted by hexagons, bubbles adopt a spherical shape, thermodynamics are ruled by the principle of minimum energy, and rock formations partially collapse until they adopt the simplest structure able to withstand their own weight…

Edge - Norway

Edge – Norway

Today, as an artist committed to photography as a medium of self expression, I fully embrace the value of “less is more” in photography. Also, in my opinion, there are few fields in science or art where this idea becomes as true, and as necessary. Photography, by its very nature, could be defined as the “easiest” of all mediums: In a 500th of a second, a photograph can be created by merely pressing a button. However, this apparent straightforwardness becomes its main difficulty. Contrary to the painter, who adds paint onto a canvas little by little, a photographer’s work needs to incorporate isolation and subtraction. If the photographer wants to convey a message, he/she needs to create order out of the chaos of the Universe. Making an abstraction of what is seen, identifying the message to be conveyed, including and arranging the elements in the photograph that will highlight that message and eliminating everything else from the frame are unavoidable steps to be made if one wants to create a meaningful and strong photograph. Composition, or the “strongest way of seeing” as Edward Weston used to call it, becomes vital.

Soft shores - Scotland

Soft shores – Scotland

Over the years, as my photography has evolved and my artistic vision has matured, I have witnessed a gradual simplification of my work and procedures. My formerly complicated and orchestral landscapes have slowly turned into simpler and bolder compositions where paragraphs have been exchanged for simple sentences. I have learnt to appreciate mist, rain and snow as powerful elements of isolation and reduction. I have come to focus my attention on the intimate details of the landscape, its emptiness and void. I have embraced the beauty and mystery of black and white photography, stripping down my photographs to an ensemble of tones and shapes. I have reduced my photographic equipment to the minimum and become used to working with fully mechanical cameras where bells and whistles have been exchanged for a total absence of interruptions and instant gratification. In my travels, I decided to visit less in more time, to photograph less but to feel more. Not only that, I have decided to apply “less is more” not only to my photography, but also to the way I understand and live my life.

Molino - Venice

Molino – Venice

For some reason, I think Andrea del Sarto would have been a terrific photographer…