Antonio Gouveia on Creating an Atmosphere for Minimalist Photography

All images by Antonio Gouveia. Used with permission.

When it comes to the minimalist approach in landscape photography, we see a lot of different subjects and subtle variations in style. But the look and feel of the images remain consistent enough for the sub-genre to stand on its own: heavily atmospheric, minimalist, and dramatic in monochrome. It has also become a popular approach to architectural photography, and it’s not uncommon for some photographers to do it for both genres. UK-based Antonio Gouveia is one who often captures a good mix of natural and man-made elements in his minimalist work.

A quick peek at his Behance portfolio reveals his mindsets when shooting nature as compared to architectural elements in a minimalist style. In his Nature series, he says, “The best landscape images are the ones that retain their strength and impact over the years, regardless of the number of times they are viewed.” In his Structures series, he also states, “Architectural images shouldn’t just be aesthetic and graphic; they should also provide dynamism and movement,” and we can see how he translates this idea into effective use of the structures as leading lines.

I recently got in touch with Gouveia to get more insight on his minimalist approach, especially when it comes to looking for the right location for his ideas and creating a certain atmosphere for his work.

Phoblographer: Hello Antonio! Can you tell us something about yourself and what you do?

Antonio Gouveia: Hi! I’m a full time social worker, a husband, and the rest of my time I dedicate to photography. I was born in Madeira, a Portuguese Island. Now I live in Portsmouth, England.

Phoblographer: How did you get into photography? How did you discover the kind of photography and imagery that you make now?

Gouveia: Photography has been part of my life since I can remember, taking snap shots here and there, until the day I started seeing it in a completely different way. By editing them, I discovered a new and magical world, full of possibilities. From then on, I wanted to create images according to my vision.

Phoblographer: We’d like to know more about your thought process for your landscape photography. How do you determine where and what to shoot for your projects? What makes a location perfect or ideal?

Gouveia: Well, I normally look online for interesting places, as well as my immediate surroundings. My favorite time of the year is winter, and I always start very early in the morning, which carries with it a good ambiance, with dark clouds and a bit of fog too. I always check the wind and tides too before I travel to these locations as they play a vital part of the location set-up, as I believe it’s very important to get the mood right from the beginning of process. I normally shoot 10 to 20 shots in different angles of the same subject. When I get home, I’m ready to view and process my work. I get myself a coffee or if is evening a glass of wine and I turn on my dark ambient music, as it plays an important part in the composition of my images.

Phoblographer: What is your typical gear setup like for your projects? How do you think this lets you achieve your creative vision?

Gouveia: I use a Nikon D810, lenses Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8g ed and 24-120 mm f4 vr, Manfrotto mt 057 tripod and ball head, and Lee filters. This equipment will help me to get good quality images, but it will not help me to achieve my creative vision, as it is just hardware and has no thoughts, feelings and dreams.

Phoblographer: Which photographers inspired you to do landscape photography, especially in this minimalist approach? How do they influence your work up to the present?

Gouveia: Michael Kenna has been a great influence, until I started developing and applying my own photographic visions.

Phoblographer: You mentioned that listening to music while processing your images is the best way to express your subconscious thoughts, feelings, and dreams. Which genres or artists do you find most inspiring or help create the most conducive creative space while you work?

Gouveia: Mainly ambient music by Steve Roach, Brian Eno, etc. It gives me an imaginative freedom to enter and navigate a mysterious world full of possibilities. Ambient music frees my mind completely and opens up all the possibilities of creation of the imaginary world, independent from unwanted thoughts and feelings. When I create my images, I normally feel very relaxed and completely isolated from everything, so I can start creating as I go along. My images talk to me and I start seeing them as they truly are, then I just follow my feelings, dreams and thoughts, until I get to the final result. In other words, until I’m happy with my final composition.

Phoblographer: What do you think is the most common misconception about the kind of landscape photography you do?

Gouveia: Probably that my images weren’t naturalistic and were created artificially. Believe me, all my photographs have been achieved out in the field!

Phoblographer: Which aspect of your projects do you usually find most challenging? How do you work around it?

Gouveia: So far, I haven’t come across any challenges. If a particular idea doesn’t work, then I usually find a suitable alternative. Sometimes I have a particular image in mind, but when I start processing it, I soon realize that the subject requires a different treatment. An image may start with a dark and moody atmosphere but instead I may incorporate some minimal lighting, thus producing a subtle level of illumination to the image and establishing an effective shift in the final composition.

Phoblographer: How does your mental and creative process change when you’re shooting with architecture as compared to natural landscapes? How do you make sure they both have the same mood or atmosphere consistent with your style?

Gouveia: My mental creativity remains consistent when composing images from the natural landscape or architectural. The mental vision is always the same and I will follow it until I am happy with the end result. If the live subjects are not moody enough, then I will create and add some until I am completely satisfied with the finished image.

Phoblographer: Which aspect of your style do you feel makes your work truly your own?

Gouveia: I shoot all of my work in color then I process them in monochrome, which makes it highly distinctive and adds a unique atmosphere to the finished pictures.

Phoblographer: Lastly, what would you advise those who want to explore the minimalist approach to landscape photography?

Gouveia: I would say, identify and visit as many places as you can and explore the style that suits you best.

Do check out Antonio Gouveia’s website and Behance portfolio to see more of his work.