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Here in New York City, the American Museum of Nature and Science currently features an exhibit called "Extinct and Endangered." In it, 40 photographs taken by Levon Biss feature rare insects in ultra-high resolution displayed against a matte black background. It's the space behind each photo (the dark background and ample wall space in the halls) that emphasizes details such as the graceful scallop of a butterfly's wings, the tiny hairs on a hornet's abdomen, or the metallic shimmer of a beetle's shell. That's because in this exhibit, as in life, clearing away the background noise brings impact to what remains.
Cartoonist Scott McCloud has created an entire model showcasing this philosophy. For him, "amplification through simplification" means stripping down an image to its essentials to amplify its meaning. Many Zen practices follow this thinking, too–among them the traditional Ikebana, or the Japanese art of flower arranging. In Ikebana, even a single leafless branch is of great artistic value. Rather than filling a vase with blooms, this tradition emphasizes structure and beauty through minimalism.
So how can we benefit from the idea of amplification through simplification in our own lives?