Red train © Kevin Krautgartner / Offset
Tennis court © Charles Gullung / Offset
“Minimalism glut” sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s a perfect phrase, coined by writer Kyle Chayka in a recent issue of The New York Times Magazine. It describes our current obsession with all things minimal, or #minimal, which as of this writing describes 7,325,862 photographs posted to Instagram.
Minimalism is a revolt against chaos and confusion, a return to formality, order, simplicity. The term actually began as a pejorative in the 1960s; as Chayka reports, Richard Wollheim used it to disparage the likes of Marcel Duchamp, Robert Rauschenberg, and Carl Andre.
To this day, the debate continues: is minimalism pretentious, or is it fun? Chayka suggests that in fact, there is a kind decadence to minimalism. And he’s not wrong- the minimalist trend, when applied to larger cultural trends, is generally for those select few who can afford to make the stylistic choice to live “sparsely.” It’s for people with interior designers and access to spiritual retreats; it’s for the elite.
Still, I might be naive in saying this, but I do feel it’s unfair to condemn minimalism as fanciful or indulgent. We live in a complicated world, and there’s much relief to be found in pictures where, as Frank Stella put it, “What you see is what you see.”
We combed through the Offset photography collection to find the best examples of minimalist photography out there, and we came to this conclusion:
We need the hard-hitting photojournalism, but in a strange way, we also need the simple, soothing balm of a great minimalist photograph. Minimalism, done right, has the power to calm our minds in an increasingly volatile world; it can take us outside of time, if only for a short while.
The beach in Rehoboth, Delaware © Paul Edmondson / Offset
White wall with red and blue stripes © Rob Larson / Offset
White wall © Rob Larson / Offset
Snow-covered tennis court, Sweden © Johnér / Offset
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