Winners - Less is More - the Art of Simplicity

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Peter Bendheim
Peter Bendheim Senior Member • Posts: 2,458
Winners - Less is More - the Art of Simplicity

Thank you

Thanks to all who participated. This was a very well supported competition and I can't say there was a single entry that I didn't like. It was very hard to judge, and an unenviable task. After much soul-searching, I've chosen the images that I think work best. Of course, your mileage may vary...

Your participation is greatly appreciated.

How I judge

a. Emotional resonance

I was looking for images that suited the theme and were simple images - that work both visually and emotionally.

As such they need to communicate in an almost Zen-like way, without all the visual noise that pervades our lives daily, be it in social media, advertising, the fast-paced world with a constant bombardment of imagery, the endless Instagram shots of selfies that have been blurred to glamorise the subject, the shots of someone's burger lunch, the millions of mediocre images that are uploaded every day.

b. Technical Issues

The technical aspects of photography are of less concern to me than the emotional aspects. I'm not one to pixel peep. When I was lucky enough to see an exhibition of Steve McCurry's work, I was surprised that by today's standards many of the printed works were less sharp than I would have imagined them to be. But that didn't detract from the powerful nature of the work. Yes, technical aspects of photography are important, but I don't believe them to be the be-all and end-all.


I hope you won't mind some comment on the works selected, and some personal pointers that again, you might disagree with. Ignore as you wish.

Honourable Mentions - 1

Mark Chaplain's superb Macro shot

This image really combines the power of the unseen to the naked eye world of small things to an almost scary Sci-Fi monster feel. I don't think I will ever look at insects in quite the same way again.

What really makes this shot work is the unusual colours which are all shades of muted orange. So much Macro photography over-uses bright greens and technicolour visuals, in that the noise is overpowering. The strength of this image is all in the simple tones and subtle variations of colour.

Honourable Mention 2

FerruginousHawk's very fine image is one of those shots which just works perfectly. The lighting is wonderful with the superb dark background, and the eye is immediately drawn to the subject matter. What really adds to this shot is the off-centeredness of the subject. So often, we centre images, but as the eye reads from left to right the image placed off centre really draws the eye in immediately.

Honourable Mention 3

BTron's image is wonderful in every sense - the dark silhouette, the symmetrical and perfectly positioned clouds or jet-trails (I'm not sure which) and the perfect gradation of light. The golden part of the light creates a V-shape that is almost an invert of the mountain below it.

I might have cheated a bit with this image if it was mine (seeing as it's art and not photojournalism). I would have removed some of the mountain on the far right-hand side so that it has the same perfect symmetry as the cloud trails. Cheating, yes, but it's the only part of the image that distracts me.

Honourable Mention 4

RLBlur wasn't going to enter this. I'm so glad that in the end, he did. Although the image is more complex that some of the other images, it works because the focus is on the lamp, off-centred, and because the subject matter is that of a simple humble life rather than a gleaming marble kitchen with all the latest appliances. The only visual distraction for me is the crookedly aligned shelf in the centre. I might have skewed the image slightly in Photoshop to raise up the left-hand side of the image.

3rd Place

Twitchly's image has a great simplicity and serenity that just works and it's a clear placed picture for me. Again the off-centredness, but in this case, the round ripples around the subject act almost as a visual bulls-eye, as does the shadow, bringing the eye immediately inwards. The arms of the subject have symmetry and so does the addition of the hat. The tonal gradations of the image work really well. There two minor distraction for me - something floating in the water on the right-hand side, and the small strip of land on the right-hand side which just creates a break in what otherwise would be a lovely and totally seamless blend of water and sky. One could argue that the strip of land balances the image. I'm left a bit unsure of whether my comment has any validity here. Well done!

2nd Place

And from BMike....What's not to like about this image? Nothing, nothing at all. It's just perfect. Almost monochrome, with a hint of colour, poles that are perfectly spaced apart, and not only that, the centre pole is slightly shorter, with the outlying poles exactly the same height. I wouldn't change a thing. This deserves a wall in one of today's modern minimalist interiors. It's only a hair's breadth from being the overall winner. Really wonderful!

And the winner is...

but first some context...

Andreas Gursky, Rhein ll

In 1992, world famous photographer Andreas Gursky's Rhein ll, became the world's most famous and expensive image when it was sold by Christie's in New York for $4,3 million. Controversial, often criticised, many people say "I could have done that". But the answer is they didn't. But Gursky did. Same with much modern art. The image works because of its layering which is just, in my opinion, wonderful.

So now we have the winner...

I love this image. It's layered perfectly in wonderfully contrasting colours. It's totally simple, but I find it riveting, almost tapestry like. View it at original size.

But on the downside, it does have some formidable technical issues that with a bit of work could really add to the image. Nonetheless, those technical issues aside, it really encompasses the theme, and it speaks with outstanding non-verbal communication.

Those technical issues are worth discussing. They are mostly in the sky which is almost completely washed out. except for the extreme corners. There are some slight distractions that appear faintly on the distant horizon - wind turbines maybe? So two primary issues - it needs a sky, but a very light one, and it needs the turbines removed. Those are easy issues to fix on Photoshop. And possibly the slight bit of road needs to be cloned out on the bottom right. I would have been happy to do a 5 minute edit to show what I mean but I don't want to offend the winner.

One might be excused for thinking that with these technical issues, another image should have won. But they are easily fixed. What one is left with though, is a dramatic, layered shot that is hugely visually appealing.

It needs to be printed really large on canvas and placed as the single image on a blank white wall in a modernist living room. I love this shot, and it appeals to me with all the same elements as Gursky's Rhein ll.

Many congratulations to Fenlander. The baton is now passed to you!

Peter Bendheim

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