Minimum City

 

Ambarin Afsar tells you how even the busiest of cities can give you plenty of opportunities to make clean, minimalist images.

Minimalism is mostly about hinting at a larger presence, a deeper mood and wider surroundings, while being succinct. Photograph/Aditya Nair

Minimalism is mostly about hinting at a larger presence, a deeper mood and wider surroundings, while being succinct. Photograph/Aditya Nair

Our cities are always so bustling with activity that in order to convey their spirit or the essence of living in a metropolis, we end up focusing only on the chaos and craziness. However, a city’s architecture, its sharp corners and jagged lines can also hold plenty of stories. So, how do you turn the concept of a ‘maximum city’ on its head?

Signs very easily lend themselves to this technique. All you need to do is spot them and then isolate them. Photograph/Aditya Nair

Signs very easily lend themselves to this technique. All you need to do is spot them and then isolate them. Photograph/Aditya Nair

Isolate a Particular Structure
Have you ever looked at a certain building and appreciated its aesthetic value? Have you noticed how the shadows fall in certain corners in your home? Or observed how angular your office space can be? Does the grunge on the streets appeal to you? This is where you start.

Pick one aspect that appeals to you, be it where lines meet corners, where railings turn into repeating patterns or even where torn posters morph into strange shapes and faces.

This image shows a vertical wall meeting the horizontal floor. But the angle makes it seem like it is one seamless capture. Photograph/Ambarin Afsar

This image shows a vertical wall meeting the horizontal floor. But the angle makes it seem like it is one seamless capture. Photograph/Ambarin Afsar

Whittle Away Dead Elements
The first rule to conveying minimalism effectively is to cut down to the bare essentials. Compose your frame such that you have only a choice handful of elements to play with. Don’t get carried away with the larger frame that is around you. Instead of immediately releasing the shutter, stand awhile and keep recomposing your frame till you zero in on a particular frame where you can justify the the presence of each element.

Minimalism is also about content. Ask yourself, how much of your subject do you include in the frame? Photograph/Ambarin Afsar

Minimalism is also about content. Ask yourself, how much of your subject do you include in the frame? Photograph/Ambarin Afsar

Compositional Tools to Make Use of
Colour, shapes, patterns and textures are your friends. Minimalism isn’t only limited to graphical frames. Largely monochromatic images or images that have a colour palette of two strong colours work best when you want to keep things clean.

Geometric shapes or even impossibly formed shapes with mismatched corners and uneven lines can create a strange kind of dissonance. Zeroing in on these shapes will automatically provide you with strong subjects for minimalist frames.

Is this an inverted corner or is it protruding? Minimalism reduces the amount of context you can insert into a photograph by lessening the number of elements in the frame. Photograph/Aditya Nair

Is this an inverted corner or is it protruding? Minimalism reduces the amount of context you can insert into a photograph by lessening the number of elements in the frame. Photograph/Aditya Nair

While we are talking specifically about urban spaces, the minimalist style can very easily apply to portraits or landscapes as well.

Ensure Clean, Crisp Lines
Pay close attention to the lines in your frame. In a way, make the lines your hero, or the protagonist of the story—which way are those lines pointing, how are they interacting with each other, do they lead to other elements? Answering these questions and building a composition around lines is something that should be on the forefront of your photowalk.

Would you believe that this image was shot at a mandap? Even the most mundane places house terrific details. Photograph/Ambarin Afsar

Would you believe that this image was shot at a mandap? Even the most mundane places house terrific details. Photograph/Ambarin Afsar

Harvest the City for Unusual Spaces
We talked about grunge, peeling posters, dirty streets and modern buildings earlier. But these are the most basic of examples that rise in anyone’s mind when thinking of urban minimalism. Rove the city for places that are rarely noticed, pay special attention to those that make you stop in your tracks— these could range from a fish market to an interesting garden, a railway station or bus depot to modes of transport themselves.

Colours can help you create boxes that divide your frame into distinct parts, and make it seem cleaner. Photograph/Ambarin Afsar

Colours can help you create boxes that divide your frame into distinct parts, and make it seem cleaner. Photograph/Ambarin Afsar

Road signage and signboards often make for hilarious yet graphical captures with their bold fonts, loud colours and misspelt text. Art galleries, college halls, stairwells, lifts—anything can be a good hunting ground for minimalist scenes.

Do not exclude people from your frames entirely. Sometimes, not only can they provide scale but also an interesting way to anchor the eye in a largely empty frame. Photograph/Ambarin Afsar

Do not exclude people from your frames entirely. Sometimes, not only can they provide scale but also an interesting way to anchor the eye in a largely empty frame. Photograph/Ambarin Afsar

Using the Way the Light Falls
One guideline for effective graphical images is strong shadows. Late afternoons and mornings are great for long shadows.
Even harsh noon light can make certain colours pop and seem more contrasty.

Postprocessing for Effect
Make sure your crops are clean and edit the images for colour detail. If something looks more emphatic in B&W, even if as an afterthought, try it out.

Looking for minimalism is also a great way of slowing down. Remember, say less, convey more.

Colours can help you create boxes that divide your frame into distinct parts, and make it seem cleaner. Photograph/Ambarin Afsar

Colours can help you create boxes that divide your frame into distinct parts, and make it seem cleaner. Photograph/Ambarin Afsar

Tags: abstract, architecture, colour, corners, curves, form, graphical, grunge, lines, maximum city, metropolis, minimal, Minimalism, minimum, monochrome, office, patterns, railings, shapes, structures, textures, torn posters