In planning an upcoming vacation to Italy, my son, who had been there the year before, said, “you’ve got to try the’ Cacio e Peppe’, the brilliance of this dish is in the simplicity of its three ingredients, pecorino cheese, pepper and pasta.” And so we did and there is no doubt, Cacio e Peppe is unsurpassed in the deliciousness of simplicity.
As an element in the art of cooking, simplicity is directly transferable to the art of seeing. In both, it is the concept of paring away the extraneous to reveal the essence. And it’s in the essence of things that we begin to feel the magic. The great Canadian writer and broadcaster, W. O. Mitchell, spoke of the essence of the prairies, when he wrote the opening sentence of his classic, Who Has Seen the Wind:
Here was the least common denominator of nature, the skeleton requirements simply, of land and sky.
Takao Tanabe, the former head of the art department and ‘artist in residence’ at the Banff School of Fine Arts from 1973 – 1980 also talked of simplicity:
What I think about the prairie is perhaps romantic, but it is an enormously simple-looking space and within all that simplicity, it’s very, very rich, very subtle. (Tousley, 2005).
So, how do we take the concepts of simplicity in cooking and in art and peel away the extraneous to reveal the essence of nature photography? The advertising phenomenon, Maurice Saatchi reminds that:
Simplicity is the outcome of subtlety. It is the goal, not the starting point.