#1089. Covid Ramblings 5: On the complexity of photographic minimalism

By Lad Sessions | Art & Creativity

Feb 08

My previous Dear Susan post (#1081) was about light and monochrome. Reading it, my friend Lash LaRue noted that minimalism is an apt subject for black and white images, and referred me to a video by Judy Hancock Holland, which piqued my interest. So now I’m writing about minimalism. But my musings will be out of the mainstream, and I’ll ask more questions than provide answers, reverting to my teacherly past. I hope that the inquiry will intrigue and provoke, and that the images I’ve selected will assist in that process.

I have been pursuing three paths: (i) looking at exemplary minimalist images, (ii) trying to take some minimalist photographs myself, and (iii) thinking about the concept of minimalism. I enjoy the first exercise, at least in small doses. My own adventures in minimalism show that I’m at the very bottom of a steep learning curve. And the thinking raises knotty questions: what is minimalism after all? when is it effective? why is it interesting? I am far from knowing the answers. Concepts very imperfectly contour reality, and philosophical inquiry honestly pursued teaches intellectual humility, the recognition that one is deeply ignorant.

Here’s a fairly standard minimalist image, although some might want fewer grasses and a cleaner background. I’m going to challenge this kind of example serving as a paradigm that defines the entire category of minimalism.

I now realize that I have long felt an attraction to something like minimalism, although I wouldn’t have put it that way until recently. In high school, I worked for a weekly newspaper in my small home town. I admired the concision and precision of good journalism, and I tried to carry this over to my student essays, eliminating excessive verbiage wherever possible; I followed the precept of KISS: Keep it simple, stupid! In college, I wrote a deservedly forgotten English thesis analyzing Ernest Hemingway’s terse style, but that fascination didn’t graduate with me; instead, I went on in philosophy.

A branch in the Maury River creates ripples of shimmering reflection of trees on the bank. Is this a minimalist image, or partially so? Or would you prefer to think of it in some other way? (This is an essay question.)

I admire concise stylists in philosophy: Aquinas, Spinoza, Russell, Quine. But then I’m bowled over by Kant, the antithesis of minimalism: complicated thoughts complexly expressed, sentences well upwards of 50 words, technical concepts, convoluted syntax. But his style quite adequately conveys his complex content. Kant has stretched my brain, and I have come to see there is room for complicated prose as well as for plain speaking in philosophy, and eloquence isn’t the same as simplicity. The writing should suit the subject matter and the intended audience. Still, minimalism does have its allure.

Few elements, monochromatic, but relatively complex: Is it still minimalist?

Minimalism is not one unitary thing, but many different things: It’s a style and a mood as well as a tendency or even a school, in areas as diverse as art, design, architecture, fashion, literature, music, film and much more. Haikus are minimalist, ditto Zen, Danish modern, Samuel Beckett, Mies van der Rohe, Frank Stella, Robert Bresson and John Adams. It seems hopeless to try to strain out common features. So let’s be slightly more focused: what is minimalism in photography? Spoiler alert: It may be equally hopeless.

A road, some trees, a snowy overlay: Relatively few ingredients, but is it minimal enough to count as minimalist?

I will go way out on a limb and offer, with some diffidence, a definition of photographic minimalism that is at once itself minimal but at the same time very expansive: Minimalist images are ones with relatively few ingredients. “Ingredients” here is my inartful term for any feature contained in an image, such as objects, forms, tones, details, colors, shades, textures, etc. (Perhaps another way of expressing the same point is that minimalism seeks to reduce or minimize the kinds and amounts of information an image conveys.) This is a broad and vague definition, and may not match your intuitions (or prejudices), but I think it has its advantages. Note especially the weasel word “relatively.” It will enable us to see minimalism not as some tightly constrained and isolated category but as a way of thinking about a great many images.

Does this image of a sunrise and crescent moon (taken out my back door) fit my definition of minimalism? Does it match your intuitions of minimalism? Well, it does reduce trees and mountains to silhouettes and sky to a color gradient with only a few features (aka clouds). So it’s at least more minimal than the same scene a half-hour later.

I think of a minimalist image as arising by subtraction: One reduces the number and types and degrees of ingredients that other possible images of the same scene contain. It’s an interesting experiment to see what happens when you reduce or even eliminate first one ingredient and then another: e.g., first crop out other objects, then reduce contrast, then color, and so on (there is no particular recipe; your cooking will differ from mine). Minimalism as I understand it therefore is a matter of degree: a minimalist image is more or less minimal, or minimal in some ways though perhaps not in others, or more minimal in some ingredient. The only absolute minimum would be a single tone or color or line—monotonous, uninteresting, boring. So the mantra of minimalism must be Less is more, not Nothing is more! But I wouldn’t want to over-generalize this slogan. Sometimes less isn’t more, and sometimes more is indeed more. Sometimes I prefer over-loaded images, chock-a-block full of detail and a riot of color (for example, John Wilson’s beguiling last image in Dear Susan #1084). Sometimes distraction and not concentration is the point. So, the slogan may work for minimalism but not for everything.

Here’s an image that decidedly isn’t minimalist: its ingredients of color, shapes, tones, textures, etc. could definitely each be reduced: e.g., black and white, reduced contrast, muted hues. But you can also think of it as on the way from a less to a more minimalist image.

It’s always dangerous to explain concepts by images, but here’s one that might help to illuminate the concept of minimalism I’m developing: Think of a number of lines converging on a focal point. Those are my ingredients. Their focal point is the limit to the subtraction of each ingredient. Now, where in this picture is minimalism? It’s not the focal point itself, for that is totally uninteresting. But how tightly do you want to draw the circle around this focal point? How many ingredients have to be attenuated, and to what degree? I suggest that it is arbitrary to declare any definite circle of reduction to be the boundary of minimalism, arbitrary to declare minimalism an absolute category with definite boundaries. Instead, there are degrees of minimalism—more or less minimal along the line of some ingredient. (Maybe we should think of minimality instead of minimalism?). How tightly you draw the circle may be influenced by what you regard as paradigmatic examples of minimalism, or by your taste in simplicity and complexity, or historical considerations, but I hope you will at least consider expanding your range of examples. That is what the images in this post are designed to do.

Here’s a test case. Color has been removed, and tones severely reduced. It’s definitely more minimal than the original. But a lot of detail remains. Is it minimal enough to count as minimalist in your book? (Some may think this is the same photo as the second one in my #1081 post, but it isn’t; it’s a different patch of forest.)

I would argue that my minimalist definition of minimalism is preferable to making larger claims, e.g. that minimalism gets to the “most basic” elements of the scene or that there are no “distractions” from the “essence” of the scene. What is basic depends on your search function; there is no single basis. One person’s distraction may be another’s attraction. And what is “the essence” of a scene, or of any appearance (like an image), or indeed of anything at all? When exactly, in subtracting or diminishing ingredients, do you reach “the” essence, and why do you think that this is the best way to find the essence? Here we are plunged into the murky depths of essentialism, and I don’t want to go there. I think you can get better mileage from thinking of a minimalist image as conveying something important or interesting about a scene without trying to convey everything, or everything important, or indeed anything important to everyone. In addition, essentialist thinking may not even be very helpful to appreciating minimalism, which has its attractions quite independently of essence: We can delight in viewing a few ingredients elegantly arranged, quite apart from what they represent or convey, whether they have an essence or whether there is no better way to discover their essence if they do have one.

Further, this minimalist definition of minimalism enables us to discern continuities and affinities with other images we might not have initially labeled “minimalist.” I don’t mean to totally fuzz up the meaning of “minimalist” so as to absorb almost any image whatsoever. But sometimes a minimal definition such as mine can help to extend our view, to increase our ability to see resemblances as well as differences, and thereby to increase our comprehensive understanding.

Is this a minimalist image? Or half of a minimalist image? Or not minimalist enough, or at all?

So, photographical minimalism tries to craft an image with relatively few ingredients. These images can be very pleasing all on their own. By highlighting a few things via eliminating or minimizing other things, we are allowed to feast our eyes upon those few things in a more attentive way. We aren’t “distracted” in attempting to synthesize multiple kinds of data; some images may provide too much information, more than we can readily take in. Moreover, viewing minimalist images can not only focus our attention but also allow us to move beyond attention to different forms of consciousness altogether, such as what is called “mindfulness” or “unselfconsciousness.” Sometimes the mind is emptied in response to an empty image.

This ancient sycamore is a complex shape that is anything but minimal. Yet the image does minimize color, tone and texture, aiming to be just a silhouette. Does it fit within your concept of minimalism?

You can find many sources that try to identify the basic “elements” of minimalist photography, or provide “tips” or “steps” of how to take minimalist images. Borrowing from others, I’ll comment on some elements—or aspects I would prefer to call them—eschewing tips and steps, with some possible examples:

Simplicity is of course first and foremost: In fact, “simplicity” is just a simpler name for “relatively few ingredients.” Take objects, which are usually the subjects of images (I know, “object” and “subject” have various meanings, but I hope you follow my drift). Simplicity says: pick only one object, or a small number of similar objects (such as a flock of birds), and isolate it by eliminating other objects that might compete for attention, through cropping or changing standpoint, orientation, focal length, etc. If there is more than one object, look for simple relationships among these. Something similar can be said about shapes, colors, tones, textures, patterns, contrasts. But simplicity is more a goal than an absolute requirement, and you have to know where to stop in eliminating “extraneous” elements. It’s like sculpture: chip away at the marble block to reveal the statue inside, but don’t go too far or you’ll end up with a bunch of rubble.

This image does simplify a bit: background colors are muted, and the red maple leaf is a figure to that ground. But does it count as minimalism? The red figure is flamboyant, the other leaves not a uniform ground: are these features disqualifying?

Complementary to objects is the space that surrounds them or that they occupy, and in minimalism it should tend towards emptiness. This is often called “negative space,” but I prefer instead the Gestalt language of figure and ground. (These labels are relative: Being a figure or ground is not intrinsic to something, and they could switch labels with a different gestalt or attention.) For there to be a figure of interest in an image there must be a ground that is relative to it, that sets it off, that shows it forth. Usually this will be the space surrounding an object of interest, and good use of that space can be vital to making a minimalist image work. Although there may indeed be very little to nothing in the space that surrounds the figure(s) of interest, I don’t think this should be an absolute requirement for a minimalist image.

A snowy forest path has very little color. But the shapes are complex and it’s hard to claim the branches are a ground for the trunks. I’m tempted to say the image is somewhat minimal, yet not minimalist, although you may draw the line differently.

I have come to think that even reliance upon figure and ground isn’t necessary to minimalism. I think you could have a minimalist image that doesn’t have a figure and hence no ground; it could simply be a wash of color or a gradient of tones. Moreover, there is a continuum from sharply delineated object to indistinct and fuzzy object to no object at all. Now some might object that an image without a definite figure isn’t minimalism at all. Fine, you may want to reserve the “minimalist” label for paradigm cases involving clear-cut figures and grounds. But my thought is that any image with relatively few ingredients is a candidate for the “minimalist” label.

Is this view of clouds and mountains a minimalist image? Well, it’s more minimal than an “unobstructed” glimpse of the valley floor. Is it minimal enough for your book?

Connectedly, my definition of minimalism can accommodate both abstraction and representation. Think of them as lying on a continuum within minimalism: sometimes the content of a minimalist image is clearly representational—recognizable objects such as trees, boats, structures, all clearly delineated, in focus and standing in contrast to a ground, indeed a background. But sometimes, I think, a minimalist image can blur into the unrecognizable—fuzzy blobs, patches of sky or sea or land, indistinct lines. Others, of course, may wish to separate these categories, preferring to think of minimalist images as always representational, and clearly and distinctly so, while abstractions are in a different category altogether. But on my view, there is a gradient of abstraction from more to less minimal: e.g., Jackson Pollock is not very minimalist in objects, color, textures, although he is an abstractionist, while Agnes Martin is clearly a minimalist but also an abstractionist, by conventional thinking. In my view, both Pollock and Martin are minimalists, with varying degrees and kinds of abstraction.

Is this an example of minimalism, or an abstraction? In my way of thinking it’s both, a relatively abstract minimalist image.}

Monochrome and polychrome: Subtracting color, either entirely or all but one color, is a form of simplifying, a way of reducing or eliminating one kind of ingredient. Greyscale or black and white is one common form of monochrome, but you could also work with just one (shade of) color. Of course there are lots of ingredients remaining, such as lines and shapes, textures, shades, tones, and the rest. But monochrome is one step in the direction of minimalism—it’s more minimal than polychrome, even if you don’t want to call it minimalism.

A leaf and snow; what could be more minimal? Well, the snowy background is a bit lumpy—would it be a better example of minimalism if it were a completely uniform tone and texture?

Other “ingredients” in an image can usually be diminished gradually until vanishing at the limit. Take tonality for example: Sometimes an image will have great tonal contrasts, from very bright to very dark, and these work very well in monochromatic images with lots of detail as well as in something more minimal. But these tones can be toned down (pardon the pun) to very limited contrasts; once again, the limit is uninteresting: a single tone throughout, a blank canvas awaiting content, not an image worth contemplating. Similarly one can think of textures from knobby to smooth; or forms from complex to simple; or shapes from geometrical to random; or hues from contrasting to complementary; and so on.

Here are four more features abetting photographic minimalism:

Fog and mist smoothly envelop everything and remove a lot of detail, so that a few elements can stand out—like bare trees, or old barns, railroad tracks, boats, lighthouses.

The Veterans Bridge over the Maury River fades into the mist, and this image clearly slots into my definition of minimalism.

Snowy things in particular often look better in black and white—they’re mostly white already!

The trees are rendered less distinct by the falling snow.

Longer exposures smooth out, and thereby simplify, moving things, whether fluids such as waves, waterfalls, clouds, vapors, or bodies in motion such as flying birds and galloping runners. A long exposure doesn’t suffice to make an image minimalist overall, as there may still be lots of other elements remaining (e.g. stream rocks), but it’s a step in that direction.

A hand-held long exposure blurs the fast-moving stream. The riverbanks and trees are not optimally minimal, but surely this image is on the path to minimalism?

Eliminating or reducing extraneous elements is vital, and this can be done in various ways: zooming in with wide apertures, longer lenses, cropping in post, and of course that old-fashioned tool: moving closer. At the extreme, macro images are often minimalist, though sometimes they revel in non-minimal details.

I close with an image that many wouldn’t consider a minimalist one at all. But this close-up of a wild azalea does fall (barely) within my definition of minimalism, by defocusing the background, though foliage is still recognizable.

So why think in this unusual way about minimalism? What good does it do? You may be shaking your head and muttering “What’s in a (expletive deleted) name anyway?” Well, there are certainly times when we want to draw distinctions, separate into categories, hold the line against agglomeration. Sometimes distinctions are the path to clarity, and then “either-or!” should be our rallying cry. That’s when we want minimalism to be separate and distinct, a world apart, an absolute category, exclusively defined by its paradigm examples. But sometimes we may want to note connections, resemblances, relationships, and then we will need to consider “both-and.” That’s when my minimal yet expansive definition might appeal: minimalism as converging lines of simplification, with some images closer to the focal point than others. I think both either-or and both-and kinds of thinking have their uses. So I guess I’m a both-and thinker in the end.


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  • Peter Oosthuizen says:

    For clear expressions of minimalism, i turn to William Neill

  • pascaljappy says:

    Lad, another great episode in this great series ! Reading your questions made me think more deeply about minimalism, a topic that has always been at the back of my mind without really devoting enough time to it.

    To me, a minimalist image is one that can be described entirely in a concise manner. This is an after-the-case check more than a how-to guide. But I find it interesting.

    Even more interesting is your discussion about essential vs minimal. To me your great waterfall photograph isn’t minimalist at all but it sure captures the essence of the location.

    Very interestinc topic, thank you.

    • Lad Sessions says:

      Thanks, Pascal.

      My intent was to stimulate thinking such as yours, not to propound a definitive “solution”. I like your thought about concise description; it fits perfectly with my parenthetical remark: “Perhaps another way of expressing the same point is that minimalism seeks to reduce or minimize the kinds and amounts of information an image conveys.”

      As you can tell, I’m wary about talk of essences (outside of Aristotelian philosophy?). Would “epitome” work just as well as “essence”?


      • pascaljappy says:

        Epitome seems just fine to me 🙂 And you are the expert on the matter!

        The information content facet is interesting. I could imagine a simple image of a completely black tree on a completely white background being “more” minimal than your dark leaf in the snow (and also less interesting). The tree is a high-level mental construct that required no drilling down to lower level structure to describe in the photograph.If the tree was reduced to a triangle, we’d loose all semblance of realism and the photograph would be abstract. If the tree had more detail, a strange shape, interesting background or anything calling for more in depth description, the image would then become less minimalist.

        So, I guess what I’m saying is that a minimalist image is one that is reduced to a low number of high-level constructs. A man and a horse. A lone tree against blue sky … As soon as high-level shapes mixe with lower level detail (your leaf and snow crystals) – or if you intruduce a multiplicity of high level shapes – you shift away from minimalism. Your leaf is still very minimalist and to me the snow adds interest. Having a white background would have made it more abstract and less relatable to me.

        I think the appeal of minimalism is its clarity. There is no doubt what the photograph is about and that can be more poetic (dense and evocative). Whereas an abundance of detail produces a more “narrative” image that can seem more fussy but is can also be richer. Does that sound right to you?

        Must think deeper about this interesting post!

        • Lad Sessions says:


          I don’t regard myself as an expert on much of anything, and I don’t want anyone to be fooled into thinking that I am!

          Your thoughts are interesting, as always. The role of concepts in minimalist images is fascinating, and I haven’t assembled my thoughts here yet. I would agree a “high-level” concept (tree, leaf) is indeed one way we simplify the data, though of course not the only one, and I can imagine minimalist images that do not use such concepts (shapes as you mention, but also colors, lines, textures). But what makes something interesting is itself an interesting question (and again, I lack answers); I suspect there’s some degree of person-relativity involved. And “clarity” is yet another concept, and criterion, for minimalism. So you’ve left me with a non-minimal set of concepts to think about. For which, thanks!



  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    I know I’m not the brightest light bulb on the ceiling – but can someone explain to me why Pascal Jappy, who is headlined as the author this Post, is thanking Lad for his [ie., Lad’s] questions?

    As for the questions themselves, I hope these “answers” might be helpful.

    1 – While “minimalism” is a noun, “minimalist” is an adjective. Adjectives don’t have defined boundaries, like nouns theoretically do (or they’re supposed to anyway). Adjectives have softer, medium or harder meanings – weaker, normal or stronger ones. A bit like the “bell curve” of a mathematician’s or statistician’s “bell curve”.

    So an image can still be correctly described as “minimalist”, even if it’s heading towards one of those more extreme meanings of the term, and nowhere near the median sense of it.

    [NOTE – I didn’t learn that during English lessons – I spent most of them reading French detective stories, under the desk. Philosophy and maths at university filled in the blanks.]

    2- Some of these images have apparently had one of the features that could bear on their status as “minimalist” removed – the colours have been “disappeared”! Goodness knows how you’d rate them in full colour.

    3- The score on on category is 100% minimalist – there are no bicycles – not even so much as a discarded wheel!

    4- Eighteen images! WOW – and all great! No – I can’t choose – I’m against “judgmentalism”, it’s responsible for most of the “sneering” you encounter in your travels through life, and I’ve been strongly opposed to it ever since (at the age of 8) I first became aware of the fact that some people behave like that. But there are four that I love, and and half dozen that I seriously appreciate. That’s over half – gulp! – it’s awfully challenging to contemplate the idea of submitting photos in such an august and competitive field!

    • pascaljappy says:

      ‘coz Pascal set up the post and forgot to set the proper author field, is why 😉

      August indeed. Competitive not 😉

    • Lad Sessions says:

      Thanks, Pete. It’s always good to hear from you.

      1. I won’t get into English grammar beyond agreeing that “minimalism” is indeed a noun, “minimalist” an adjective. 🙂

      2. Yes, my desaturation of some images was designed to further my proposal that there are various ways to minimize different “ingredients” in a photo, and a color version of an image will be less minimal (on my proposed definition) than one where the color is reduced or eliminated.

      3. Sorry about the lack of bicycles. I live in a hilly town, and only the college students seem to be able to utilize them effectively, so there are few on the streets, though occasionally I’ll encounter a peloton out on the county roads.

      4. Glad you like so many, and your appreciation is more important to me than any judgment. So thanks!



      PS: I would agree with Pascal about your last comment: I view Dear Susan as a friendly, helpful, collaborative, educational place, not a competitive one. Everyone is invited!

  • Ian Varkevisser says:

    For me Kenna is the epitome of minimalism. And do not discount our very own Lani who is right up there 🙂

    A good 8 min viewing Kenna can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TURFdRtSb7k

  • Scarlet says:

    I like how you have contemplated some of the characteristics of “minimalist” photography. Your wonderful and welcome photographic examples do fall along the spectrum. I think abstract photography could be analyzed in a similar way.

    • Lad Sessions says:

      Thanks, Scarlet. I think you’re probably right about analyzing abstractionism in photography (and much else!), but that’s for another day. As I intimated, either-or and both-and mindsets can be applied everywhere–perhaps in different moods?

  • Mark VB says:

    Interesting discussion. As I read the article what occurred to me is that photography itself is the creative act of minimizing. That is, the photographer selects the scene within the frame and discards everything else through various methods (e.g., focal length, positioning, aperture selection, color vs. B&W, tonality, etc.). Even a photograph made with an extreme wide-angle lens, that takes in far more in its “view” than the human eye would normally take in still requires deciding what to include, and by necessity what to exclude. Discussing concepts of minimalism within a creative act that starts with minimalism suggests that minimalism must involve a sliding scale of some sort and that line drawing is nearly impossible. From my own perspective, I prefer to appreciate an image for what it is and the photographer’s creativity in making it. Where an image may fall on the minimalism scale is less important.

    • Lad Sessions says:

      Thanks for your remarks, Mark (sorry, I just can’t help myself). They seem spot on, to me. Seeing itself is selection, and selection is a form of minimizing. I’m attracted to William James’ metaphor of human perception as a kind of “reducing valve,” constricting the ocean of incoming data so that we can begin to make sense of our experience. You’re totally right, of course, to appreciate an image for itself first and foremost. My thoughts about minimalism come later, and are indeed less important–but still interesting, I hope. Lad

  • Minimalist images, a subject dear to my heart. And we are entering into the season of my annual search for such images. The spring of 2020 was a bonanza for me. I came away with two such images, according to my definition, out of several dozen attempts. And several near misses. That was much better than the zero for many attempts for several years prior to that.
    In my mind a minimalist image is one where the eye goes straight to an insignificant subject and does not tend to wander beyond that subject. There is nothing else to see. There is no other information on the canvas. Doesn’t matter if it is in color or b&w. That insignificant subject contains all the information that exists in the world of that canvas.
    Therefore, none of the images above fit my definition of minimalist. But, most of them fit my definition of very interesting and lovely compositions that I could enjoy and come back to for years. Especially that building with the crooked road leading to it; and the snowy forest scene with the big shag-bark hickory tree in the middle.
    Feel free to comment. I am not a sensitive type.

    • Lad Sessions says:


      I do so appreciate your comment, and it disturbs me not in the least. I rather like your austere understanding of minimalism, and you are certainly free to define it however you wish. But I would call it an extreme or maximal version of minimalism (!). I tried to get a more global sense of a continuum of types of images rather than separating out minimalist images as a kind apart; your kind would then be at or near the end of one (or more?) of these continua. Still, I don’t want to insist that my way of looking at things is the only way.

      That said, what matters first and foremost are the images themselves—their reflected beauty and their interest to someone—and the conceptualization comes afterwards. I would love to see some of your images, if possible.

      Thanks so much!


  • Nancee Rostad says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on minimalist photography, Lad. You’ve provided many opinions (with fine example images) of what may be evidence of minimalism, but in no way was your post minimalistic! I’ve always believed that minimalist photography is simply the distillation of an idea in a way that leaves a definite subject, while removing extraneous details.
    Check out Bruce Percy’s website for some beautiful examples of minimalist landscape images:
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Lad Sessions says:


      Thanks for the reference to Bruce Percy–very minimalist indeed, and very beautiful.

      Your way of thinking about minimalist photography is clear and useful. My efforts to go further may have gone off the rails at various points, but I don’t think they are at odds with your understanding.


  • Frank Field says:

    Lad – A very constructive and well-thought-out post, as is your trademark. Thanks for alerting us to the work (and videos) of Judy Hancock Holland. Excellent photography. I prefer the term “intimate landscape” for many of these images and tend to think of minimalism as referring to work from Michael Kenna. Either way, the message to simplify the image and exclude the extraneous is a very helpful reminder to us all. Thank you.

    • Lad Sessions says:

      Thanks, Frank.

      I like your phrase “intimate landscape”! Simplification is indeed key to minimalism, but I worry about “the extraneous”–extraneous to what, and for what purposes?

      There are many ways to think about a concept. One way is to have paradigm instances in mind, as you do with Michael Kenna, and then to proceed by analogy and likeness–anything similar enough to the paradigm will count. Another way is to venture something like a characterization or even a definition, an attempt to draw conceptual boundaries around something that will remain a bit fuzzy (there will always be untidy areas, and possible counterexamples). Lawyers like the former, philosophers (mostly) the latter.


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