Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, “a designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add but when there is nothing left to take away.” I wouldn’t claim perfection for any of my images, that’s not the point of my quoting this, but I love the idea that a move towards mastery in photography is a move towards including the essential and excluding all else that doesn’t contribute.
I’ve spent the last 3 days working on images from Iceland and building the Iceland Monograph for the Craft & Vision Store, so these images and the things I learned about my own process are on my mind. If there is one thing I am constantly encouraging my students to do it’s to identify their intention for an image and then remove everything that doesn’t support that vision. If that’s a line, a person, a background, whatever, shoot in such a way as to exclude the extraneous. Use a longer lens, a different point of view, a shallower depth of field, a change in the orientation of the frame, or rendering an image in black and white, whatever it is, edit out the fluff until all I am left with is the photograph.
How did Michelangelo sculpt? He removed all the marble that was not part of the statue. While that over-simplifies the means of getting there, I think it well identifies the intent – to be so aware of what you want to say that you remove everything unnecessary to say it.