Photography is Subtractive

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In his article, The Camera Mind and Eye, Minor White reminded us that one of the key differences between the painter and the photographer is the painter starts with a clean canvas to which he or she adds brush strokes and creates the image imagined by building up layers, colors and textures, whereas the photographer has to work backwards.

The image seen through the viewfinder includes everything within the field of view of the lens and therefore the photographer’s challenge is to separate the meaningful from that which is not.  Successful photographs are those where the photographer has been able to exclude those parts of the scene that do not contribute to the image imagined.

In short, the art of photography is as much about what is excluded from the frame as what is included in the frame.

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