Advanced Composition for the Art Photographer

"Before all else a work of art is the creation of love, love for the subject and for the medium second. Love is the fundamental necessity underlying the need to create, underlying the emotion that gives it form, and from which grows the finished product that is presented to the world. Love is the general criterion by which the rare photograph is judged. It must contain it to be not less than the best of which the photographer is capable." - Eliot Porter

One thing a good picture does is to engage the viewer. We've all seen visitors to a gallery or museum standing a few feet back from a painting with arms folded across the chest and a frown of concentration on the brow. The rectangle of the picture frame makes it seem to be a window looking out upon the world (whether apparently the familiar world or the unfamiliar world of the artist's imagination). Good pictures are instead open doorways that invite the viewer to walk through them into the scene. The best pictures grab the viewer by the throat and drag him or her bodily into the world they create, never to return.

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What we humans call beauty is the voice of I-Thou beseeching us to risk love.

Art transcends technical perfection. Art reaches into that well of fertile chaos from which birds of paradise emerge fluttering in surprise at random intervals. Art scorns mere technical perfection. Which is not – paradoxically – to say that anything goes and forget all striving. The nth level of craftsmanship is required to create an artful naiveté. Art is in the graceful gesture of the magician, sweeping his wand across the air, from which a thousand fire flowers blossom into sparkles of fairy dust and as quickly disappear.

Creativity by definition is not primarily intellectual in nature. As you develop an image, from the moment you're in the field with camera or sketchbook capturing its seed, the strong force takes over and acts through you. Creativity is the lion's roar of the future giving warning that it's effortlessly pacing your fastest rush forward. It's nipping at your heels, just waiting to sink its teeth into your flesh should you veer by the merest smidgeon from the path.

The lion herds you onward at breakneck speed toward a terrible chasm. Stop and the lion has its supper; hesitate and you tumble into the void; leap without breaking stride – that's your only hope of survival. If against all odds you achieve the other side, a hero's laurel wreath awaits; if not, we'll sing you a beautiful dirge.

This is your choice: be the lion or die.