melbourne minimalism doesn’t mean blank walls

The compulsion to strip images back to their barest parts is endemic in visuals at the moment, but there are challenges in showing so little.

by Ben Thomson
09 June 2015, 3:56am

Nicholas Wilkins is a Melbourne photographer who, like a lot of Melbourne photographers, takes minimalist photos. The compulsion to strip images back to their barest parts is endemic in the city's visuals at the moment, but he's open about the challenges in trying to do so little. We spoke to him before he embarked on a European tour to presumably take a lot of photos of right angles, and asked him how he made sure that's actually something people want to look at.  

There're a lot of references to modern minimalism in your work, but it's maybe more of an ingredient than the whole recipe. Are there things you like and dislike about minimalism?
There are just a lot of people doing it on social media, which makes it hard to try and find a way to make it your own.

It can be a bit dogmatic at times too—people into minimalism can be so far in they're almost just photographing blank walls.
I've never really thought of myself as a "minimal" photographer, it just happened to be that I like the photographs I have taken recently where I deliberately removed a lot of information from a scene. They're better at creating a the kind of atmosphere I wanted; they're stronger images, that translate the subject matter in an interesting way. I think it's just a way of composing what you're interested in photographing.

I guess the downside is that you can lose track of the subject and why you chose it, and get lost in the quest for the perfect minimal composition. Which seems to happen a bit across social media like Instagram. I only really became aware of this recently when I made an Instagram account. But on the other hand maybe that's the point of minimalism. It can also be purely about formal qualities. Some of my works are just formal experiments.

You often subvert faces in your work; a lot of photographers use the face to draw people into the shot, but it works very effectively for you. What does this process say about your work?
I think it just adds to the mystery of the world I'm trying to make, adds an element of strangeness.

How do you think shooting in Melbourne makes your work different?
The landscape is just different. Melbourne is more iconic than you'd realise, I definitely noticed it when I was doing the @fotoguerrilla takeover with another guy From Seoul.

There is one photo of a staircase that I saw where I thought, this guy definitely has to be from Melbourne, and I was right!
Oh yeah, I rode past that on the way here. That brick colour, it's in Collingwood.Oh yeah, I rode past that on the way here. That brick colour, it's in Collingwood.

I call it Browntown.
Makes Sense.


Text Ben Thomson
Photography Nicholas Wilkins

Nicholas Wilkins