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“It’s The Composition, Stupid!”: Studying the Essence of Good Photography by Examining Classic Paintings on Zoom!

Photography, like painting, is all about composition!

Quick Details



You cook a wonderful meal and your friends say: “WOW! That was GREAT! Delicious! What kind of OVEN did you use? You must have a great OVEN!”

You would be miffed, right? Because you know it’s not the oven, it’s the COOK who prepares a great meal. Great soufflés were prepared by Julia Childs, not by her pots and pans. And the same is true in photography: it’s not the camera, it’s the photographer who makes the image. Here at Washington Photo Safari, we firmly believe you can take a good or bad picture with ANY camera!

Photography, like painting, is all about composition: the symmetry, the balance, the leading lines, the framing, the perspective, the points of interest in the image that draw the viewer’s eye. So this safari is all about training you to see and capture good composition in your own photographs.

Gathering together on a zoom call, we will look at a selection of 7 paintings and 7 photographs, and study each of them from the point of view of artistic composition looking at such elements as the rule of thirds, foreground elements, leading lines, use of color, the use of light, and the position of the artist . Registered clients will receive attachments in advance that contain this selection of paintings and photographs for easy future reference.

The safari is led by architectural photographer and Washington Photo Safari director E. David Luria who studied photography in Paris with a protégé of the French photographer, Henri Cartier Bresson, famous for capturing “the decisive moment” in his classic photographs.

And we are honored to announce that the paintings have been selected for us by one of the foremost art historians in the country, Dr. Hollis S Clayson, retired professor of art history and Bergen Evans Professor of the Humanities at Northwestern University, who will be joining us on the Zoom session to give her perspective on each painting’s compositional elements. The photographs are from Mr. Luria’s personal portfolio.

The images selected by Dr. Clayson for this Zoom safari are by the following artists:

– Gustave Caillebotte;
– Winslow Homer;
– Eugene Delacroix;
– Berthe Morisot;
– Johannes Vermeer;
– Paul Cezanne

Looking at these images, we will study them carefully from the point of view of composition: where does your eye go when first look at the photograph? Where are the leading lines? What is the subject.? How is it lit? Check out the use of doorways, archways, trees and flowers used to frame the subject. Check out the placement of people as bookends to make the composition more interesting.

The safari will then conclude with a question and answer discussion about composition, how to make your picture INTERESTING so that other people will want to look at them!

Registered clients will be sent the zoom link and the links to the paintings and photographs to be discussed.

Here is what one client had to say about the Zoomfari:

This is a brilliant idea. I really look forward to this class.”  Jean S.