“…a standard of tastefulness particularly in the areas of visual design, decoration, the sciences, and the esthetics of mathematics. Elegant things exhibit refined grace and dignified propriety. – Wikipedia
“… A tasteful richness of design. A dignified gracefulness or restrained beauty of style emphasizing neatness and simplicity.” Webtser’s Dictionary
Everyday we see the clutter of the world about us. We search for the proverbial needle in the haystack – whether it is a meaning in a book, the best cup of coffee in the city, or an answer needed for work. We are trying to refine out all the superfluous and discern down to the true essence of what we need. We seek that simple clarity that we appreciate, crave and helps us either go deeper or take what is needed and go forward. We continually seek the elegant discovery.
One core aspect of art is the concept of elegance. We want it to be purely about the message being conveyed. We don’t want distracting clutter that pulls us away from the intent of the piece. For many of us, we want the piece of art to be a deconstructed production that simply conveys the pure message or intent of the creation.
I greatly appreciate both seeing and creating elegant photos. I want the subject to be the core essence with minimal distractions around it. This is very important when I photograph people. The elegant portrait conveys both the person’s likeness and her or his personality. This likeness can be truthful or a desired “reality” . Regardless, the subject is the key element and everything else should be subdued or eliminated if it doesn’t add to the message or meaning of the photo.
Elegant art doesn’t always have to be “pretty” art. Richard Avedon’s In the American West is a great example of this concept. The images are elegantly simple and show the distilled essence of the subject by removing all context of location and environment. We are forced to look in the eyes at each person and try to figure out what the meaning in the photo is for ourselves.
Not everything can be reduced to the elegant simplicity we want and that is ok. Chaos can also be beautiful and deserves to be captured in art as well. I will write more in the future about this aspect of art.
Most of us desire elegance, whether it is in art, the solution, a hotel room, or the beauty of a moment. Elegance helps us to whittle away the distracting bits of life and helps us discover the truth, simplicity, and sublime moments, messages, and aspects of our lives.