Managing with the least resources is what minimalism is all about. This can be a fantastic way to regain vision and clarity of thought. Photographers in general, tend to look down on this and other similar lines of thoughts as weird but the truth is entirely opposite. Minimalism helps in creating some of the best images. It also makes the whole process from initial visualization till the final photograph, more enjoyable. Minimalism is about the freedom and not about restrictions.
Minimalism, Anti-Consumerism and Purists
Minimalism is a way of life where common things are kept to the least possible numbers. ‘Less is more’ … this is the philosophy behind minimalism. Minimalism is not about restricting oneself but more about enjoying what we already have. Minimalists tend to get the most out of their things. A friend of mine uses a APS-C sensor camera with a 50mm lens. This is all that he owns when it comes to photography. On asking about the lack of wideangle, tele or macro, he simply says that he is happy with the photographs he is able to create which his equipment. He does not find them limiting in any sense. There was a time when I had a Nikon D200 camera body with just a Nikkor 50mm lens. Visualization was easy when I had that setup.
Another associated thought is that of anti-consumerism. Here the idea is to go opposite to the trend of buying everything. Anti-consumerists do not rush to buy the latest camera accessories or gadgets. They manage with everything that still works. I have seen photographers of today still using DSLRs like D90 and D200 which were the best of the breed in their times. No, using old film cameras is not anti-consumerism, since there are very few new film camera manufacturers left. Using old film cameras is practically forced on people who still use film. Some of them use it for the love of film cameras, but it is not anti-consumerism. Anti-consumerists do not go on acquiring stuff.
Purists are a third associated breed. These are the ones who love to keep things simple. Most of the purists use simple metering modes in their cameras and find comfort in calculating flash power using guide numbers rather than by understanding through the lens flash power calculations. Purists love cameras with obvious controls of various camera functions that are important for photography. They do not run after high fps, high ISO performance or built in camera’s post-processing capabilities. Purists are the ones who still long for those carefree days of Leica rangefinders using film or Nikon FM and F series SLRs.
For clarity’s sake – A photographer who buys just one good camera with a lens and never feels the real need to purchase more is a minimalist. If that photographer happens to buy that camera and lens from a friend who was selling it since the camera was still good enough, even though the budget was never a factor, is an anti-consumerist. The anti-consumerist is also the one who may not even buy a camera and simply enjoy the beauty. Purist is the one who sets the camera to the default settings, uses basic camera modes and focuses the energy on creating beautiful photographs rather than fiddling around with the camera. Sadly, the present world economy is driven by consumerism, but for how long? These ideologies are still not main stream and economists still fail to see how these ideologies can support the world.
(Wooden House – Photographed using an inexpensive compact camera and edited in Affinity Photo. I had photographed this on a family outing.)
Less is More
Less of equipment translates to fewer choices. There was a time when I had about ten camera bags. As any photographer who has been in the field for a few decades would know, there are no perfect camera bags. My first camera bag was the least expensive model that I could find which could hold my camera safely. Next came a few fashion statements. A couple of camera bags were a spur of moment purchases and then there were the ones with pockets to keep my documents too. Last year, I was planning on a photography trip to a nearby lake and I spend quite some time, trying to decide which camera bag to take. I packed a bag neatly and then unpacked all the stuff, just to pack everything back in into another bag. If I had only one good camera bag, I would have saved time and packed everything into that. (Inside my camera bag). Now, among other things, I am also trying to reduce the number of my camera bags. I have gifted some of them, sold a few and still struggling to let go off a few others.
Lesson from the waterfalls trip
Recently I was planning a trip to a waterfalls. Being a mini ecosystem in itself, the surrounding area has interesting flora and fauna. Some of the insects and birds in that are which are easily spotted are difficult to find in other nearby places. The flowing water and the falls itself are beautiful. Mist and fog create surreal moods. The problem – what lenses to carry? A wideangle lens will help in capturing the landscapes and making the images come alive. A decent macro will help me find those beautiful bugs. A tele for the birds! Maybe a normal lens for motion blurs. What if I need to capture some portraits as well but the 105mm macro may be a little too short for my use? Maybe I should carry a 135mm lens as well. Now in that moist area, changing lenses might not be so easy. Does a zoom lens make sense? These were the actual thoughts that went on in my mind. I took three lenses with me on the trip and sometimes I carried all the three around. The choices sometimes are overwhelming and make the visualization difficult.
After returning from the trip, I analyzed my results and was surprised to see that the maximum photographs were made using my Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 G lens. (50mm lens for Nikon) Maybe that is the only lens that I should have considered before leaving for the trip. Just a couple were made using a short tele and none on the wideangle.
Once again, my photography itself told me that less was more!
Minimalism comes with its own comforts. Less of material possessions to worry about. Less of equipment to take care of. Fewer speedlights… fewer batteries to charge. One less lens… one less item that can get covered with lens fungus. One less camera… one less item to clean and use, lest it should get spoilt!
The freedom that this provides is refreshing to say the least. The absence of materialistic things creates a space in our minds that helps us think. I have seen minimalists living more peacefully than people who hoard things. One religious person very nicely pointed out to me once that everything that we add to our worldly possessions also adds its weight to our minds. We know of the existence of our possessions and this weighs down on our creativity. I am not a philosopher but I am trying to turn minimalist. Trust me when I say that going minimalist is comforting.
(Less in the camera bag translates to more distance that can be comfortably trekked. However, here I am talking of reducing the number of possessions themselves, regardless of whether they are in the bag or not)
EDIT 1 (July 3, 2019)
Incorporating Minimalism and Anti-consumerism in Life!
Let us move one more step ahead. Why don’t we incorporate these ideologies in our daily life? Think of it in this way – Every purchase that you make comes from the mother earth… and ends up destroying it.
Every gadget, every packing that you open, every item you purchase… everything is harming the earth. By following the above ideology, you’ll be doing a lot to help the earth too. Gadgets, number of cartons, even the good inside them… everything comes from earth and somehow or the other has destroyed the earth in the process.
When we moved house: We moved to a new city some years back. (Clutter that builds up) Things were neatly packed in cartons and shipped. Now, after about two years, we have to change our house and I was thinking of the number of cartons that are still unopened, the electronics that lie neatly packed and unused, papers that have changed places but have no actual use… list goes on! We don’t need those things but still are hard to do away with them. What if we needed them again after sometime? That neatly packed set of stationary items (the items that I already have on my desk)…
We can’t go back to living in caves but we surely can reduce our carbon footprint by adopting minimalism and anti-consumerism. Be it photography or the way we live. Let us try doing this.