Henri Cartier-Bresson and Myron Barnstone on the Golden Section and Dynamic Symmetry

Henri Cartier-Bresson and Myron Barnstone on the Golden Section and Dynamic Symmetry

The closest art to photography is painting, and thus the two primary visual art forms share basic precepts regarding light and composition. In the same way photographers use different lenses, filters, and lights to achieve their vision, so too might they learn to use various time-honored, classical techniques in composition. While a polarizing filter is not used for every shot, neither is the golden ratio and sacred geometry. But just as every photographer will have a polarizing filter in their toolkit, so too will they have knowledge of sacred geometry, whose rules they can exalt, or break, at will.

The late Myron Barnstone was a favorite art teacher made famous by his rigorous, classical drawing classes he had videotaped over the years, beginning long before the internet made video ubiquitous. The Morning Call reports:

Skill, no matter what medium, is based on years of rigorous training, mastered through the understanding of the structured, geometric systems used by artists such as Picasso, Michelangelo and Da Vinci. "I give them a toolbox," the Whitehall Township man says of his students. . .  his legacy lives on in the dozens of students who have gone on to successful careers in the art world.

Although he has passed on, fortunately for us, Myron has left quite a legacy behind in the way of videos, some of which can be watched freely on YouTube.  Here Myron introduces the "brief history" of the golden ratio in art, taking us on back to the time of cavemen:

"Welcome to the Golden Section"

Myron provides a few more concrete examples of how artists use dynamic symmetry and the golden ratio here: "How do Artists use the Golden Section?"

Here Myron elaborates on it all a bit more, in "Golden Mean, Golden Rectangle, Golden Section used in Art:"

Wikipedia provides a partial list of artistic and architectural works designed with the golden ratio in mind:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_works_designed_with_the_golden_ratio

The legendary street photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson was famous for using tracing paper to try and find dynamic symmetry in his photographs, thusly studying and improving his composition until he was able to head on out to any street and capture the action in accord with the golden ratio.  Cartier-Bresson stressed the need for internalizing the "golden rules" so as to be able to capture master compositions without the aid of any "little schema grills" clamped onto one's viewfinder, nor the "Golden Rule" etched upon the camera's "ground glass:"

http://www.apogeephoto.com/richard-avedon-henri-cartier-bresson-and-golden-ratio-compositions/

Charlie Rose traveled to Paris and interviewed Henri Cartier-Bresson himself.  When Rose asked Cartier-Bresson, “What makes a good composition?” Cartier-Bresson had one word—“Geometry....

...In applying the Golden Rule, the only pair of compasses at the photographer’s disposal is his own pair of eyes. Any geomet­rical analysis, any reducing of the picture to a schema, can be done only (because of its very nature) after the photograph has been taken, developed, and printed – and then it can be used only for a post-mortem examination of the picture.

...I hope we will never see the day when photo shops sell little schema grills to clamp onto our viewfinders; and the Golden Rule will never be found etched on our ground glass.”

When you see a street-scene evolving in front of you, can you capture the "decisive moment" in a golden ratio composition, as Henri Cartier-Bresson trained himself to do?

Regarding Cartier-Bresson, the legendary fashion photographer Richard Avedon stated, "Cartier-Bresson is the greatest photographer of the 20th century. He is like Tolstoy was to literature. He covered all the ground, in a vast way – politically, socially – and the most personal and complex insight into the human personality."

Well, perhaps masters such as Avedon, Cartier-Bresson, and Barnstone are worth listening to, studying, and heeding.  The simple, classical tools and traditional rules of composition could be even more valuable than a new lens or camera.

Do you find anything inspiring in the above list?  Please share in the comments!

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54 Comments

Oh, that article again...

Elliot McGucken's picture

Myron Barnstone's videos on the Golden Ratio had never yet appeared next to Henri Cartier-Bresson's words on Golden Ratio Compositions, to the best of my knowledge.

But yes, if we study art history, we will see forms of this article time and again! :) The ironic thing of our own age is that we seem to have rejected the golden ratio.

Bernoulli asked that the following epitaph be assigned to his tombstone beside a logarithmic spiral: “Eadem mutato resurgo” (“Though changing, I rise again the same”).

The golden ratio spirals infinitely inwardly and outwardly, with neither center nor circumference, and yet it maintains its exact same proportions throughout--the same proportion found in all your bones. As Michelangelo, Botticelli, and da Vinci saw beauty in the human form, they exalted the Golden Harmonies. Henri Cartier-Bresson carried on in this tradition.

Alex Cooke's picture

Any logarithmic spiral spirals infinitely outward, not just the one whose growth factor is phi. The same goes for spiraling infinitely inward if you extend the domain to allow negative values of theta. A logarithmic spiral with such a domain absolutely has a center, namely where theta tends to negative infinity and r tends to zero. Such a spiral is not a closed curve, so it makes no sense to talk about circumference in the first place. Lastly, all (not just the phi version) logarithmic spirals are self-similar. As for being found in "all our bones," I've yet to see the exact irrational number phi found in any proportion of any meaning in the human body, and approximations are just that, approximations. Second, give me any number, a big enough data set, and enough confirmation bias, and I'll find that number everywhere.

What confuses me is that the golden ratio is supposed to be some mythic connection between the physical/mathematical nature of the universe and its mystical nature – some sort of in-built scientific constant of art. Yet, mathematicians don't care about phi at all; it's a very insignificant number that we mention as some historical footnote and move on from. Scientists of times past found it interesting because that was the state of the science then. Bloodletting was also exalted at one point, but you see where I'm going with that. Modern scientists have dutifully analyzed its appearance or significance with more modern sophistication and have continually found it to be in a word, insignificant. Sure, there are historical examples and maybe even a modern example or two you can cherry-pick, but the overwhelming majority of mathematicians and scientists are adamantly indifferent to this thing that's supposed to be the mythical connection, so my question is: on what basis besides appeals to historical artists who didn't have the requisite knowledge to assess the mathematical significance of a numerical concept or anecdotal cherry-pickings of those who did pay it heed centuries ago does this continue to persist?

Elliot McGucken's picture

Yes!! I mostly agree! "Any logarithmic spiral spirals infinitely outward, not just the one whose growth factor is phi. The same goes for spiraling infinitely inward if you extend the domain to allow negative values of theta. A logarithmic spiral with such a domain absolutely has a center, namely where theta tends to negative infinity and r tends to zero. Such a spiral is not a closed curve, so it makes no sense to talk about circumference in the first place. Lastly, all (not just the phi version) logarithmic spirals are self-similar. As for being found in "all our bones," I've yet to see the exact irrational number phi found in any proportion of any meaning in the human body, and approximations are just that, approximations. Second, give me any number, a big enough data set, and enough confirmation bias, and I'll find that number everywhere."

The ratio of the subsequent bones in your fingers are approximations of PHI as seen here: http://goldenratio.wdfiles.com/local--files/human-body/fib_hand

It is also seen here:

http://www2.rgu.ac.uk/subj/ats/TeachingWeb/teaching/t26-DesignPrinciples...

And here:
https://luxorandfinch.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/shop-by-shape-phi-and-the...

Google "golden ratio human body" for much more! :)

You write, "I've yet to see the exact irrational number phi found in any proportion of any meaning in the human body, and approximations are just that, approximations." Yes! Plato saw this. The physical world is at best an approximation of mathematical ideals. I know that you're a fan of music and math, and while the Pythagoreans were right about the relationships between string length and frequency, in a sense they were wrong, as no string has ever vibrated at some perfect frequency in our analog world, due to quantum uncertainty in measurement (or even before the uncertainty principle kicks in):

http://pages.mtu.edu/~suits/pythagorean.html

And yet, we tune guitars and enjoy music as it is "close enough".

All hands and human bodies vary, but if one were to average over 100s or 1000s of samples, the number 1.618.... would be approached.

There are scientific reasons for the golden ratio being "growth's number." As far as irrational numbers go, it is the least rational, thusly presenting the most efficient way for distributing leaves or cells with the least chance of overlapping.

More here: https://www.mathsisfun.com/numbers/nature-golden-ratio-fibonacci.html

A couple years ago I came up with this--would love to get your take on its logic and clarity: "Dr. E’s Golden Ratio Principle: The golden ratio exalts beauty because the number is a characteristic of the mathematically and physically most efficient manners of growth and distribution, on both evolutionary and purely physical levels. The golden ratio ensures that the proportions and structure of that which came before provide the proportions and structure of that which comes after. Robust, ordered growth is naturally associated with health and beauty, and thus we evolved to perceive the golden ratio harmonies as inherently beautiful, as we saw and felt their presence in all vital growth and life—in the salient features and proportions of humans and nature alike, from the distribution of our facial features and bones to the arrangements of petals, leaves, and sunflowers seeds. As ratios between Fibonacci Numbers offer the closest whole-number approximations to the golden ratio, and as seeds, cells, leaves, bones, and other physical entities appear in whole numbers, the Fibonacci Numbers oft appear in nature’s elements as “growth’s numbers.” From the dawn of time, humanity sought to salute their gods in art and temples exalting the same proportion by which all their vital sustenance and they themselves had been created—the golden ratio. "

Thanks & Best :)

Elliot McGucken's picture

You write, "Sure, there are historical examples and maybe even a modern example or two you can cherry-pick, but the overwhelming majority of mathematicians and scientists are adamantly indifferent to this thing that's supposed to be the mythical connection, so my question is: on what basis besides appeals to historical artists who didn't have the requisite knowledge to assess the mathematical significance of a numerical concept or anecdotal cherry-pickings of those who did pay it heed centuries ago does this continue to persist?"

You write, "The overwhelming majority of mathematicians and scientists are adamantly indifferent to this thing that's supposed to be the mythical connection."

I don't think that's true at all!

From Pythagoras, to Euclid, to Fibonacci, to Kepler, many of the Giants of Science and Math exalted in the study of the golden ratio.

Pythagoras created the fields of "mathematics" and "philosophy."

Euclid wrote the best-selling math book (and textbook) of all time!

Fibonacci was the most famous mathematician of his time.

And without Kepler and Kepler's Laws, Newton (and modern physics) may have never happened (or at least not as fast as it did).

Kepler stated, “Geometry has two great treasures; one is the Theorem of Pythagoras; the other, the division of a line into extreme and mean ratio (the golden ratio). The first we may compare to a measure of gold; the second we may name a precious jewel.”.

Somewhat ironically, Fibonacci never noticed that the ratio of subsequent Fibonacci Numbers converged on the golden mean as the series increased. It was Kepler who first noticed this! :)

Elliot McGucken's picture

You query, "on what basis besides appeals to historical artists who didn't have the requisite knowledge to assess the mathematical significance of a numerical concept or anecdotal cherry-pickings of those who did pay it heed centuries ago does this continue to persist?""

Which historical artists "didn't have the requisite knowledge to assess the mathematical significance of a numerical concept "?

“Without mathematics there is no art.” stated Luca Pacioli, a friend of da Vinci. :)

The famous Albrecht Dürer (May 21 1471 – April 6 1528) was a German painter and printmaker, most famous for his series of prints, individual engravings and numerous painted self-portraits. He stated, "Since geometry is the right foundation of all painting, I have decided to teach its rudiments and principles to all youngsters eager for art."

Durer: "The new art must be based upon science — in particular, upon mathematics, as the most exact, logical, and graphically constructive of the sciences."

De divina proportione (On the Divine Proportion) is a book on mathematics written by Luca Pacioli and illustrated by Leonardo da Vinci, composed around 1498 in Milan and first printed in 1509.

Luca wrote, "The Ancients, having taken into consideration the rigorous construction of the human body, elaborated all their works, as especially their holy temples, according to these proportions; for they found here the two principal figures without which no project is possible: the perfection of the circle, the principle of all regular bodies, and the equilateral square."
From the book De divina proportione

“Without mathematics there is no art.” –Luca Pacioli.

Michelangelo:

http://goldenratioandphi.weebly.com/uploads/2/0/9/3/20932690/1027485_ori...

Elliot McGucken's picture

Finally, you write, "besides appeals to historical artists who didn't have the requisite knowledge to assess the mathematical significance."

Yes! Many artists, even those who didn't know math, may yet have naturally incorporated the golden ratio for the simple fact that it is impossible to draw the human form (or plants or animals or any NatGeo scene) without exalting the golden ratio.

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/c3/43/f2/c343f22bddfbe48ac7466...

Another related question is "Can plants count?", or "Do sunflowers know math?" How do they get their spirals to line up so well, and why are they always created in proportions of the golden ratio (or Fibonacci Numbers)?

As far as photographers go, perhaps they are "Feeling" these natural rhythms found in faces, flowers, and bones in their compositions.

Music has been called "unconscious math," and I strongly doubt Beethoven took out a calculator to figure out where to place the next note. :) And yet, every note fits in with the strict mathematical structure of the musical scales. :)

Einstein stated, “It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure,” "I know that the most joy in my life has come to me from my violin."

So while the math is there, it seems that the art is something greater. :)

Your graphic is an excellent illustration of the counter-argument There is no phi in that sculpture. Lines have been drawn at approximately "golden ratio" intervals, but those are not significant points. There is another image of the Sistine Chapel with golden ratio rules drawn right at the point of the fingers touching, but those are only golden ratio rules because the outside rectangle was drawn at an arbitrary position to make the rules "golden ratio" rules. Countless times it has been claimed (even here, and in the first video!) that the ratio of the phalanges of the hand fit that ratio; hint: they do not, at least no more so than many simpler geometric ratios such as 2/3.

The whole "golden ratio myth" has been debunked many times, much more thoroughly than I am willing to do. A quick google search includes https://www.fastcodesign.com/3044877/the-golden-ratio-designs-biggest-myth which seems to hit many of the major debunking points but not everything.

Humans seek patterns. When a pleasing pattern is drawn over a pleasing image we see significant pieces of that image which line up. And there are enough pleasing patterns that one of them likely will, when drawn just loosely enough, match up quite well with any arbitrary pleasing composition.

There is no secret pattern overlay to great photographs or great compositions. What pattern overlays give you is a framework around which you can build an interesting photograph, not because they are magical or mystical or somehow "natural", but because that latticework is there, so if you follow it in one part of the composition and in another part of the composition the interrelation between those parts will be apparent (see Myron's Picasso example as exactly this). Will you form better compositions by following a rule of thirds or golden ratio rules or golden spiral or sinister diagonals etc? You will. But not because the pattern is special, but because there is a pattern which draws the pieces together.

Elliot McGucken's picture

lol "rule of thirds."

Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Mind's Eye: Writings on Photography and Photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson, Michael L. Sand
Aperture, 1999 - Photography - 109 pages

"...I hope we will never see the day when photo shops sell little schema grills to clamp onto our viewfinders; and the Golden Rule will never be found etched on our ground glass."

"In applying the Golden Rule, the only pair of compasses at the photographer’s disposal is his own pair of eyes. . . ."

-- https://books.google.com/books?id=FrkmAQAAMAAJ&dq=The+Decisive+Moment+Ha...

Are you saying that Henri Cartier-Bresson is wrong about Herni Cartier-Bresson? Are you saying that all the books agreeing with Henri Cartier-Bresson about Herni Cartier-Bresson are wrong?

Elliot McGucken's picture

Are you saying Myron Barnstone is wrong?
https://youtu.be/MyFp5joAd7s

Elliot McGucken's picture

Good points with your definitions here: "Any logarithmic spiral spirals infinitely outward, not just the one whose growth factor is phi. The same goes for spiraling infinitely inward if you extend the domain to allow negative values of theta. A logarithmic spiral with such a domain absolutely has a center, namely where theta tends to negative infinity and r tends to zero. Such a spiral is not a closed curve, so it makes no sense to talk about circumference in the first place."

Here's a good summary on Quora:
https://www.quora.com/Are-archimedean-spiral-and-fibonacci-spiral-same-I...

The Fibonacci Spiral, which is a close approximation of the Golden Spiral, was easier for the ancients to draw, as "A Fibonacci spiral is constructed from quarter circles whose radii form a Fibonacci sequence. It's approximately a golden spiral, but not exactly."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_spiral

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/2e/FibonacciSpira...

So each quarter-circle defining the spiral has somewhat of a defined "center" and "circumference," even though the center can always spiral further inwards and the circumference outwards.

Funnily enough, you should have been around during Bernoulli's day and age, as they drew the wrong kind of spiral on his tombstone!!

http://www.shellsandpebbles.com/2014/03/02/buried-beneath-spirals/ :
"Ever since humans began using stone slabs for the decoration and demarcation of their gravesites, masonry has been employed to show the social status of the deceased individual. In this tradition, the Swiss mathematician Jacob Bernoulli chose the figure of a logarithmic spiral to be carved onto his gravestone. The latin motto Eadem mutata resurgo (“Changed and yet the same, I rise again”) was to surround the spiral. However, when he died in 1705, the stonemasons that were responsible for the beautification of Bernoulli’s grave carved an Archimedean instead of a logarithmic spiral into it (see figure 2). And by doing so, they made a crucial mistake."

lol rookie move! :)

https://i0.wp.com/www.shellsandpebbles.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/fi...

:)

This rule should be used as a foundation for more elaborate compositions and seldom by itself

Alex Cooke's picture

Lol, edited your original troll comment, eh? I’m a perfectly fine mathematician and photographer, thanks. I never said this rule shouldn’t be used; my point was the arbitrary application of mathematics as justification for artistic decisions is inappropriate.

Elliot McGucken's picture

Henri Cartier-Bresson stated, "In applying the Golden Rule, the only pair of compasses at the photographer's disposal is his own pair of eyes."

You write, "HCB never said any such damn stupid thing."

Why would you say that? Why does the golden ratio inspire so much blind rage and silly denial? Henri Cartier-Bresson's words are well-documented in countless books and sources:

https://books.google.com/books?id=c9RTFYp5-_UC&lpg=PA153&dq=In%20applyin...

Are you saying that fastcodedesign is filled with "real artists" while Henri Cartier-Bresson was some sort of a lesser or "fake" artist for using Golden Ratio in his compositions?

Do you think that Myron Barnstone is also fabricating the history of the use of the golden ratio?

And the fastcodedesign blog is easily debunked.

As photographers we must always ask, "Do I listen to Henri Cartier-Bresson, Myron Barnstone, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Rembrandt, Phidias, Pythagoras, Irving Penn, Helmut Newton, and Richard Avedon, or clickbaity bloggers and fastcodey designers?"

Sadly, I think all too many photographers follow the latter.

But that just means more opportunity for "The Golden Ratio Avengers." lol :)

Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Mind's Eye: Writings on Photography and Photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson, Michael L. Sand
Aperture, 1999 - Photography - 109 pages

"...I hope we will never see the day when photo shops sell little schema grills to clamp onto our viewfinders; and the Golden Rule will never be found etched on our ground glass."

"In applying the Golden Rule, the only pair of compasses at the photographer’s disposal is his own pair of eyes. . . ."

-- https://books.google.com/books?id=FrkmAQAAMAAJ&dq=The+Decisive+Moment+Ha...

Are you saying that Henri Cartier-Bresson is wrong about Herni Cartier-Bresson? Are you saying that all the books agreeing with Henri Cartier-Bresson about Herni Cartier-Bresson are wrong?

One book by a nut is not "countless".

>> Why does the golden ratio inspire so much blind rage and silly denial?

To be honest, because we prefer our stupid and krazee people to be more entertaining. Seriously - if you're going to award yourself a Phd, at least learn to write equations as well as a high school student..

My best suggestion: if you want attention so badly, get a silly haircut and say "Because... ALIENS!" a lot. It's no more undignified and it will pull in more punters...

Elliot McGucken's picture

In the book Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Mind's Eye: Writings on Photography and Photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson, Michael L. Sand Aperture, 1999 - Photography - 109 pages, Henri writes:

"...I hope we will never see the day when photo shops sell little schema grills to clamp onto our viewfinders; and the Golden Rule will never be found etched on our ground glass."

"In applying the Golden Rule, the only pair of compasses at the photographer’s disposal is his own pair of eyes. . . ."

Are you saying that Henri and all the above books are wrong?

https://books.google.com/books?id=FrkmAQAAMAAJ&dq=The+Decisive+Moment+Ha...

Elliot McGucken's picture

Well, you can keep calling Henri Cartier-Bresson a nut, but that doesn't really support your unfounded arguments. :)

More wonderful Henri Cartier-Bresson quotes: https://books.google.com/books?id=5AUXCgAAQBAJ&pg=PA2&dq=henri+cartier+b...

Elliot McGucken's picture

I really think you should give Myron Barnstone's video a chance:>

<
Is there anything in the video that doesn't make sense to you? Please do share! :)

Elliot McGucken's picture

Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Mind's Eye: Writings on Photography and Photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson, Michael L. Sand
Aperture, 1999 - Photography - 109 pages

"...I hope we will never see the day when photo shops sell little schema grills to clamp onto our viewfinders; and the Golden Rule will never be found etched on our ground glass."

"In applying the Golden Rule, the only pair of compasses at the photographer’s disposal is his own pair of eyes. . . ."

-- https://books.google.com/books?id=FrkmAQAAMAAJ&dq=The+Decisive+Moment+Ha...

Are you saying that Henri Cartier-Bresson is wrong about Herni Cartier-Bresson? Are you saying that all the books agreeing with Henri Cartier-Bresson about Herni Cartier-Bresson are wrong?

Elliot McGucken's picture

Your clickbaity blogger friend says that it is "bullshit that Salvador Dali used the golden ratio" https://www.fastcodesign.com/3044877/the-golden-ratio-designs-biggest-myth

lol. Again the need for cusswords instead of simple logic, reason, and truth. :)

Here's the truth (and it goes even deeper if you would like):

http://www.widewalls.ch/golden-ratio-examples-art-architecture-music/sal...

"Salvador Dali – The Sacrament of the Last Supper
The Surrealist painter, Salvador Dali, famous for his paintings that depict the dream-like worlds of our subconscious, in his painting The Sacrament of the Last Supper, displayed his knowledge about the golden ration. Taking inspiration from Leonardo Da Vinci, Dali positioned the table exactly at the golden section of the height of his painting. His entire painting is in fact framed in a golden rectangle and he didn’t stop there. The positioning of the two disciples at Christ’s side, Dali placed at the golden sections of the width of the composition. The extensive use of the golden ratio, showcases the artist’s need to not only create the image that is in a perfect balance, but also that is the most pleasing to the public’s eye.

Featured image: Salvador Dali – The Sacrament of the Last Supper"

So are you saying that your blogger is a "real artist," while Salvador Dali was a "fake artist"?

Such is the way of the internetz + postmodernism + deconstruction + modern education. lol :)

>> Your clickbaity blogger friend

And that's typical of Bitter Lying Nut Logic. The man is a professional designer. A real one instead of a guy on the Internet who has awarded himself a Phd...

Elliot McGucken's picture

Here's another wonderful book quoting Henri Cartier-Bresson on using the golden rule: https://books.google.com/books?id=tZtZAAAAMAAJ&q=henri+cartier+bresson+g... :)

Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Mind's Eye: Writings on Photography and Photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson, Michael L. Sand
Aperture, 1999 - Photography - 109 pages

"...I hope we will never see the day when photo shops sell little schema grills to clamp onto our viewfinders; and the Golden Rule will never be found etched on our ground glass."

"In applying the Golden Rule, the only pair of compasses at the photographer’s disposal is his own pair of eyes. . . ."

-- https://books.google.com/books?id=FrkmAQAAMAAJ&dq=The+Decisive+Moment+Ha...

Are you saying that Henri Cartier-Bresson is wrong about Herni Cartier-Bresson? Are you saying that all the books agreeing with Henri Cartier-Bresson about Herni Cartier-Bresson are wrong?

...And the best part is you can buy this "wonderful book" for 50c because no wants it. Which may be a sign that it isn't that wonderful.

It's also a sign Eliot isn't that bright. Because the book isn't about HCB - or even photography - and the author has no relevant knowledge. She just repeated the same psuedo-source in an aside in a book no one cares about.

And because Eliot The Self Awarded keeps quoting junk sources that trace back to the same ur-junk source, everyone with the brain is laughing - because each time he reminds everyone that the respectable relevant literature is against him.

Of course if he was bright enough to realize that, then he might have a real Phd..

Elliot McGucken's picture

Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Mind's Eye: Writings on Photography and Photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson, Michael L. Sand
Aperture, 1999 - Photography - 109 pages

"...I hope we will never see the day when photo shops sell little schema grills to clamp onto our viewfinders; and the Golden Rule will never be found etched on our ground glass."

"In applying the Golden Rule, the only pair of compasses at the photographer’s disposal is his own pair of eyes. . . ."

-- https://books.google.com/books?id=FrkmAQAAMAAJ&dq=The+Decisive+Moment+Ha...

Are you saying that Henri Cartier-Bresson is wrong about Herni Cartier-Bresson? Are you saying that all the books agreeing with Henri Cartier-Bresson about Herni Cartier-Bresson are wrong?

The Cult of the Golden Ratio has been around for centuries. Yes, great artists used "golden ratio" rules (often quite roughly, to the point that claiming a golden ratio is arbitrary unless the artist said he did so; Dali's Last Supper painting is a great example of several kinda-sorta-if-you-squint golden ratio rules in use, but not really). They did so because for centuries the teaching was that this was a "secret" to great composition. A lot of crappy artists made mediocre compositions based off the golden ratio as well. The art based on it is an effect of the mystical belief that it was a special ratio, not the other way around.

If I were advising an artist or a photographer just learning how to compose shots, I would advise them to line up lines and patterns in the shots where one wants the eye to flow, and to avoid doing so where one does not want the eye to venture (ie, a line started in your subject and extending through a background distraction only enhances the distraction). Obviously using a set pattern and arranging the focal points of a piece on that pattern's lines achieves this, but without an intellectual understanding of what you are doing and generally leads to too-familiar effects. I would also advise them to balance the shot if they want a relaxing image, which is another effect following any of the "special ratio" rules will generally yield. I would give this advice, rather than to line things up on specific patterns, because it gives them a logical understanding of what they are trying to achieve, and what they will achieve by breaking the same rules. It is teaching them to fish rather than giving them one specific fish.

Elliot McGucken's picture

So do you disagree with Myron Barnstone? https://youtu.be/MyFp5joAd7s

:)

Elliot McGucken's picture

In the early twentieth century in Paris, Matila Ghyka helped exalt a renaissance in the Golden Ratio with his epic books, now available on amazon. In his book titled Esthetique des proportion dans la nature et dans les arts (Aesthetics of proportion in nature and the arts), Ghyka showed how Leonardo da Vinci had used the golden ratio in his masterpieces. The great Spanish Surrealist painter Salvador Dali met Ghyka in 1948 in Los Angeles, where Ghyka was the chairman of the Fine Arts Department at USC. Trained in the rich tradition of classical art at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Dali learned to paint in oils like the greatest European Masters of days gone by. Dali oft lamented that his peers lacked his classical training and technical skills. At the age of 45, inspired by Ghyka and da Vinici, Dali wrote, "Now at 45, I want to paint a masterpiece and save Modern Art from chaos and laziness. This book is consecrated to this crusade and I dedicate it to all the young, who have faith in true painting." Yes! Let us follow in the footsteps of Salvador Dali and Leonardo da Vinci! Let us create art exalting the golden harmonies!

Elliot McGucken's picture

Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Mind's Eye: Writings on Photography and Photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson, Michael L. Sand
Aperture, 1999 - Photography - 109 pages

"...I hope we will never see the day when photo shops sell little schema grills to clamp onto our viewfinders; and the Golden Rule will never be found etched on our ground glass."

In applying the Golden Rule, the only pair of compasses at the photographer’s disposal is his own pair of eyes. . . ."

Are you saying that Henri and all the above books are wrong?

https://books.google.com/books?id=FrkmAQAAMAAJ&dq=The+Decisive+Moment+Ha...

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