Minimalism & Photography

Granada, Spain

Granada, Spain

I have been interested in travel and landscape photography for over 8 years. Recently, I've been combing through the photographs I have shot over the years. Five countries, tens of thousands of photographs to remember those fleeting memories. Their initial purpose was meant for preservation, a way to never forget. But as I am travelling now, I’m starting to question their lingering presence. Growing up with digital technology, I never had the limitations of film cameras. The thought of only having 24 shots in a roll of film that may or may not turn out terrifies me. It is easy with a digital camera to become overly sentimental, and the tendency to compulsively take photographs to remember still exists for me.

I believe this “restriction” is beneficial for entry photographers. It allows you to saturate your work with quality over quantity. When I first started, I would have over 500 photographs from a weekend of shooting, but only a handful that I cared about. This mindset has changed over the years. Today, I recognize that the more photographs I take, the more I am diluting my work. The sensation you feel of a place shouldn’t be dispersed amongst so many photographs, spread thin over images that could never encapsulate the moment. In retrospect, I believe I was trying to fill the moments with pictures rather than filling the photograph with moments. Now I am left with an entire library of hollow images without the depth I so desperately wish they had.


Over the past week, something occurred to me: I rarely take ownership of the photographs I produce. The ones that receive recognition have always felt more like consolation prizes. Bright spots in an otherwise dormant career. If you bring up one of my photographs, the dialogue feels flat and routine. I always thought it was instinctual: it has always been difficult for me to accept compliments and criticism. But I think there is truth in my behavior and a key element missing in my photographs: a conversation. As they say, “a photograph is worth 1,000 words”, but I feel mine fall short of a few sentences. With landscape photography, it is hard to associate meaning with distant places for people who will never visit themselves. I am only a witness to what nature displays to me; I leave all credit and mystery hidden among the mountains and valleys. I have grown frustrated over the past month at why after a 2-year hiatus from travel photography that I cannot communicate to my viewers. It has not been engaging enough for me. Sometimes I glance at my work and feel like I have never been there, a mere remnants of a past life. One of my regrets is seeing the world through a viewfinder instead of what is directly in front of me. If I can’t find value in my own photographs, how am I supposed to portray those feelings to others?

This photograph has all the elements that make a beautiful photograph. The subject is someone close to me - my brother Jesse. The landscape and composition is everything I want it to be. The only thing missing is meaning. Regardless of its recognition, I feel shame admitting that this photograph is an example of one that lacks any depth, conversation, and ownership.

This photograph has all the elements that make a beautiful photograph. The subject is someone close to me - my brother Jesse. The landscape and composition is everything I want it to be. The only thing missing is meaning. Regardless of its recognition, I feel shame admitting that this photograph is an example of one that lacks any depth, conversation, and ownership.


This past year, I created a small, short-term photography project called Portraits of Fondy. It was inspired by Humans of New York and created as a distraction from the mundanity of my life at the time. It was a creative outlet, one I never thought I had. I worked hard interviewing and determining the moment in the conversation where I can press the deep questions. I was able to create an atmosphere of trust and comfort, allowing for moments of vulnerability to permeate the discussion. In these interviews, I saw humanity in its truest form, even if only for a brief moment. The project was tiresome: one done on my free time without the support of the agency itself. Hours of audio to transcribe, saturating the story to create a compelling message that’s both moving and authentic. The aim was to shed light on the issues of homelessness and tackle the misconceptions portrayed in society.

I don’t believe it is my best work, but I have never felt prouder of something I created. I truly think that those that read them will be impacted in some way, because the stories force a conversation. Even if the dialogue is internal, it puts a spotlight on an issue or a theme I want to portray. A platform for change. Maybe someone will be inspired by these stories and help create solutions to the issues. Maybe it shifts the perspective. Portraits of Fondy with all its imperfections embodies who I am as a person, one that wants to make a difference. The project had more ownership to me than the thousands of photographs of the past.

I always thought that my photography was limited by living in my hometown. This past year has been a valuable lesson that even with familiarity of a place, you can still create something beautiful. In fact, I believe familiarity makes you focus on those subtle details that often goes unnoticed and what makes your community unique.

I always thought that my photography was limited by living in my hometown. This past year has been a valuable lesson that even with familiarity of a place, you can still create something beautiful. In fact, I believe familiarity makes you focus on those subtle details that often goes unnoticed and what makes your community unique.


After a month of traveling in Spain, it finally clicked that I need to focus on these themes. The image count at the end of the day is getting smaller and smaller. I’m treating each place as if a true stranger, ignoring the advice of what guidebooks tell me to see. I stray from the mobs of tourists that fight for the same composed shot in the rat race to acquire followers. Now, before I take the photograph, I ask myself if these photographs add value to my life. I set my camera down and wait for the sensation to control what I want to shoot. I want to be proud of my work that I do, and I hope my future content reflects this sentiment with you.

Thanks for reading!

Casey

Casey FrenchComment