Making space for the viewer

pliers and violin

Image: Su Leslie 2019

I think of simplicity in photography (Mies van der Rohe’s famous “less is more”) as more than the limiting of elements or a paring back of visual noise. I think it is also about creating space for the viewer to make their own story from the image.


What do you think? How much do you like (or loath) ambiguity in an image?

Thank you to Debbie at Travel with Intent for reminding me of Ansel Adams’ statement that “There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.”

And thanks also to Amy at The World is a Book for hosting this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | less is more.


30 thoughts on “Making space for the viewer

  1. I always make up stories about photos! Especially with people. And then I’ll ask the photographer for the back story. Mostly I am wrong, but, oh, it is fun! The first photo is really intriguing, but I love the blue in the second photo.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Love it. I have been known to imagine Detailed back-stories for people I see on the street. I am probably wrong about them too (almost certainly in fact), but since I’m too chicken to start a conversation with them, I’ll never know.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like ambiguity. As a law professor, I was often talking about the ambiguity in language, but it holds for images as well. We bring to it all our own preconceptions, values, and concerns.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love all of this post!
    I’m myself someone who always posts not only a photo but tells a story – OR I leave the viewer with a silent question/a wonderment/an assumption…. Photos DO tell stories, always, and a certain ambiguity is part of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Both of these images are lovely, Su. And both leave a question in the viewers’ mind. For me, that means pondering them long after I’ve viewed them. But the COLOR in the second one is AMAZING! Color always draws me in so that I become almost wrapped in it, if it’s done well.

    And I find the wording of “making room for the viewer” a slightly different way of expressing what I try to do with both my writing and my photography. I try to invite them in to see the beauty, or in some cases the pain, in the world, to be drawn in and then surrounded by it. But the of idea of a picture that can invite the viewer to make their own story from the image is a new way of looking at how I might compose a shot. Wonderfully fascinating.

    Thank you!!


  5. I’m learning this in my own photography. As in writing, I think leaving things out gives the reader or viewer an opportunity to come to it in their own time and their own way.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think that space is important in every piece of art, be it a photo, a painting, a film or a song. Especially with the latter comes to mind those tiny pauses in say a piano play where you’re anticipating the next note but also enjoy the silence in between. At least that’s how it is for me when listening to classical music.
    And I love that Adams quote!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s