Negative space

Image: Su Leslie 2019

Is negative space the space you don’t like, or the space that is not there? And if it’s not there how can you tell? — Emma Bull

I read somewhere that negative space exists to give the eye a place to rest. Implicit in that of course, is that there is something to rest from.

I guess that’s what distinguishes negative space from space which is merely empty.

Understanding that distinction — and becoming comfortable with it — is not easy for many of us. We fill the frame, fill the page, fill our stomachs, our homes and our time (and our children’s time).

And then, at some point, we talk about simplifying, editing, down-sizing, stepping back. We are looking for the negative space in which to make sense of life.

Crikey, I hear you say, that’s a bit philosophical for a photo challenge.

Ah, but in the company of many thoughtful photographers (indeed lens artists), I think musing on the philosophies that inform our work has its place.

I play a lot with negative space in my photos.

It has been a slow and not always conscious process, thoughΒ  I do remember the first time I was aware of trying to take something out of an image, rather than trying to fit it in!

Looking though my archive, I notice that many of my images have quite high contrast between positive and negative spaces.

There are some exceptions.

Lens-Artist Photo Challenge | negative space

49 thoughts on “Negative space

  1. You have a wonderful talent for using negative space in your photography. And I love the philosophical thoughts. I’m a person who enjoys space and especially my own. My daughter on the other hand never has a minute to herself.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. These are all lovely images, Su. I think the one with the boats and the last one might be my favorites. I too love negative space and frequently use it. I also like space in my life, cherishing time alone. My walks are a big part of that. While I don’t mind walking with others, I really prefer solitary walks with no music or other outside intrusions to interfere with sounds and sights around me.


    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow! just wow!
    You’ve explained/demonstrated so clearly what negative space is (I was wondering).
    We have a similar idea in writing – that which is not said which speaks the loudest. It’s what I’ve been working on this year, the idea of writing the shadows.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I love the phrase “writing in the shadows” It totally captures the idea of negative space. I’ve worked as both a writer and editor, and prefer editing (even when it’s just my own work) because my goal is always to take things out — to create space for my readers’ own thoughts and feelings.

      And in my case editing is absolutely essential because I always have way more words than I need.


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