The camera can push the new medium to its limits – and beyond. It is there – in the “beyond” – that the imaginative photographer will compete with the imaginative painter. Painting must return to the natural world from time to time for renewal of the artistic vision. The key sector of renewal of vision today is the new vistas revealed by science. Here photography, which is not only art but science also, stands on the firmest ground.
Once a photographer is convinced that the camera can lie and that, strictly speaking, the vast majority of photographs are “camera lies,” inasmuch as they tell only part of a story or tell it in distorted form, half the battle is won. Once he has conceded that photography is not a naturalistic medium of rendition and that striving for “naturalism” in a photograph is futile, he can turn his attention to using a camera to make more effective pictures.
I believe that photography at its best is an Art, and photo-technique is but a means to an end: the creation of the picture. Today, even a fool can learn to operate any of our modern foolproof cameras, and produce technically perfect pictures -- but is this knowledge really all he needs for taking purposeful and pictorially exciting photographs? Naturally, as in any other art, there are artists and there are dabblers. If photography really were nothing but the simple and purely mechanical reproduction process the majority of people still think it is, why are there so many dull and meaningless photographs around?
But no matter how controversial and difficult, not to say elusive, the concept of composition, sooner or later a photographer must come to grips with it. How is up to him, because, as I said at the beginning, composing is an intensely personal affair. But before anyone can work out anything for himself, he must know what it is all about. In this respect, theoretical discussions have their use because they deal with fundamentals. And the fundamental aspects of composition provide the only basis on which anyone can build a philosophy of photography. To give the reader this basis is the purpose of this book—not to convert him to the author's opinions. To do more is impossible; from here on it is every man for himself.