Subtraction

by Dan

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For me, Subtraction is one of a few key pillars of the simplification process. Before I explain, I’ll start with a disclaimer. I was going to write a longish piece on this subject but, since I started thinking about it, I have discovered that one of my favourite authors is releasing a book on this very subject later this year. The Art of Subtraction by Matthew E. May is due for release in October 2012. For more information visit Matt’s site here. Matt’s other books are also relevant to this subject, in particular In Pursuit of Elegance – needless to say, I am a fan and take inspiration from these works. As such, it would be wrong of me to stray too far into this patch, but I will explain how I came across the concept of subtraction and how it found its way into this project.

For a number of years, I have been a keen photographer. I have studied the subject and worked hard at learning ways to create good pictures. Subtraction is a key technique used by photographers to enhance visual impact. Essentially this involves arranging yourself, the camera, or the scene, so that the only things within the frame are those things that contribute to the effect you are trying to achieve. The average snapper will place a camera between themselves and a nice scene and press the button. The great photographer will spend time envisioning the impact, emotions and connections they want to make with the ultimate viewer, and clearing the frame of everything that takes the eye away from the intended vision. Less is more.

Just as Michelangelo created the statue of David by subtracting marble from a large slab of stone, the photographer removes distractions to create the perfect image, and a person can create the life of their dreams by removing worries, clutter and excess.

We are nearly one month into this process, so this week I will summarise my findings to date. Subtraction will certainly feature as a significant contributor to the Daily Acts of Simplification so far!

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