"I don’t know if photography is an art or not an art. I have no idea of all this." - Henri Cartier-Bresson
A few months ago, I joined an online conversation about photography and art. The question raised by one of the photographers was, "Is photography considered art?" My response to their question was, "Yes and no, it just depends." There are many photos taken by photographers that are not art. Not every picture I take I consider art.
Unfortunately, most of the information available for learning about photography would be regarded as technical training - learning how to use all the functions on your camera and how to process the images that you take. In turn, very little is written about the actual art of photography. To make matters worse, most photographers insist that there are "no rules" for taking great photos. As romantic as this claim might seem to newbies and some "new age" artists, it's not based on anything rational and simply isn't true. Today, in photography especially, most design rules are tossed aside for self-expression and creativity. John Sexton, a former student of Ansel Adams, once claimed that there are no rules in art. However, without rules in any discipline, you can't effectively measure anything which, in turn, makes it impossible for someone to learn new skills.
Currently, being trained as an artist is much different than being trained as a photographer. At an atelier, you are taught a particular set of skills that become the foundation of your education - much in the same way you would learn how to play a musical instrument. In other words, teaching is based on a system of progressive learning - one skill placed on top of another. With this type of study, there is very little room for "self-expression" and "creativity."
Additionally, a classically trained artist will spend a lot of time studying geometry. If a painter is following solid design principles, they will use t-squares, rulers, compasses, and calipers to compose their work. Unfortunately, a photographer doesn't have the luxury of time or precision when it comes to designing their photographs, and therefore, most photographers are not taught the basics of classical skill-based art.
However, all is not lost. If a photographer is willing to take the time and study real composition principles, they can effectively produce a work of art on the fly. Henri Cartier-Bresson was a photographer who did just that. In fact, Bresson was able to create hundreds of masterpieces because of his education in classical art. He understood how to divide the 35mm Leica frame based on the Dynamic Symmetry armature of the rectangle. For this reason, he was able to produce a large, consistent body of work in his lifetime.
"James Cowman's user's guide on composition and Dynamic Symmetry, in particular, was one of the greatest milestones on my journey of becoming a better artist. Dynamicsymmetryart.com is undoubtedly the best resource on the subject out there, which I keep recommending to anyone interested in taking their compositions to a new level. It shocks me that even otherwise excellent artists today often know nothing about these old systems and rely mostly on their intuition to create their compositions. It's time that artists rediscover and revive the lost knowledge of the old masters and bring art back to its former glory. Jame's user's guide is a unique and invaluable resource in this effort." - Storm Engineer
"Jim offers something that is almost impossible to find online: a truly one-of-a-kind resource. His information about Dynamic Symmetry is meticulously researched and comes from a place of knowledge and genuine interest, not sales, as so many educational sites do. Reading his surprisingly accessible work has helped me to grow artistically in a deliberate and satisfying way. I return to Dynamic Symmetry Art regularly and always learn something new." - Rebecca Isenhart
"The information provided in The Art of Composition: A Dynamic Symmetry User's Guide for the Modern Artist has been a tremendous resource for me as an artist and photographer. My photography work has improved tremendously, and all of my clients agree! I'll continue to share this user's guide with all of my peers and other creative artists." - Zine Massey
"I just graduated from the BFA in Graphic Design at the Federal University of Pernambuco, in Brazil, and one of the chapters of my monograph was about composition. As a motion designer, the proper layout of elements is a very important phase in my creative process, so any tool that helps with making decisions on that is very valuable. What I love about your studies is that it's full of images and resources, it's a gold mine in my opinion. Thanks for providing so much information at an affordable price." - Eveline Falcão
"The Art of Composition: A Dynamic Symmetry User's Guide for the Modern Artist deserves to be a physical book in Barnes & Noble & on my coffee table!" - Elliot McGucken
"The Art of Composition: A Dynamic Symmetry User's Guide for the Modern Artist is, without a doubt, one of the most comprehensive e-books ever written on the topic of design in art. Whether you're a beginner, intermediate, or advanced art/photography student, this user's guide is indispensable. I recommend it to all of my artists and photographers and have it linked to my website The Artist Angle." - Jennifer Finley "Though I am not a newcomer to photography, I am far from being a professional. So too, it has only been in the past few months that I discovered dynamicsymmetryart.com. I was transformed from being concerned with camera equipment, f-stops, shutter speed, ISO to considering how I would apply the principles of classical art training to my photography.
As I began reading about the old world masters, including da Vinci, Degas, Rembrandt, and Renoir, I learned that Dynamic Symmetry structurally changed paintings from being passive to active and dynamic. Furthermore, I didn’t realize that a small, yet renowned, group of photographers were well known for using Dynamic Symmetry in their photographs of city life and people. My journey began by reading. The Dynamic Symmetry Art website has numerous resources that gave me a crash course in art and composition. I had to learn about the visual properties of different kinds of rectangles and how each can be divided into compositional elements. Then I began using the Dynamic Symmetry grid overlays in Lightroom to analyze and crop my photos. I have found dynamicsymmetryart.com extremely beneficial, and it has contributed immensely with my efforts to improve as a photographer. Thank you for your commitment to art and art education." - Warren Wish
"With the passing of Myron Barnstone, we lost a great resource on the application of the Rectangles of the Masters and the Golden Section in creating art. But the website dynamicsymmetryart.com is carrying on that work Myron so thoroughly believed in and taught. Dynamic Symmetry can be used in the simplest of ways as well as being infinitely complex if one desires. Great minds such as Leonardo da Vinci recognized the power that this compositional tool offers. Dynamicsymmetryart.com is an amazing reference for artists who are open to exploring the benefits of using Dynamic Symmetry in their work. It applies to all the arts and resonates at a primal level of understanding harmony and beauty. Much thanks to James Cowman for his dedication to furthering this information to the public." - Master Artist and Teacher, Dot Bunn, Red Stone Farm Studio