It’s tempting with photography to try and cram in as many things as possible into our images. The argument goes: We’ve paid for those pixels so why not use them all? I think there are times where less is definitely more. The lack of complication gives space for the subject to “breathe”, and allows the viewers time to consider how the story might unfold.
Take this “street photography” image from “The Castle of Good Hope” in Cape Town, South Africa. Putting the main subject at the extreme left gives them lots of space to walk into, and lets them intersect with the white line to form an informal triangle. The simplicity allows you to concentrate on them and notice; their bare feet, wonderfully long hair, and the fact that they are walking along the edge of the crazy paving path.
More bare feet, but this time it’s a surfer on Rhossili Beach in Gower, South Wales. On a sunny day the blue sky has reflected in the wet sand, giving a blue tone to most of the image. The blue gives a great colour contrast with the red of the surfboard, and the reflection of the board makes an arrow pointing in the direction the surfer is walking. The tiny figure relative to the vast expanse of blue shows how far the surfer has got to go to get to the sea.
This final image uses emptiness to show the scale of a job someone has to do – cleaning the turbine hall floor in London’s Tate Modern. I waited carefully before I pressed the shutter in order to get the mop head pointing inwards. It forms another “informal triangle” with the person and mop handle. Her red top catches the eye nicely, and once more there’s a colour contrast between her top and the floor.
So, it’s more or less clear that less can be more!