on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Not a Master

Pondering the "Artistic Master" in Photography

Guy Tal

Professional photographic artist, author and speaker working primarily in the Western US.


Image by Guy Tal

Mastery is an elusive concept. You never know when you achieve it absolutely and it may not help you to feel you've attained it. We can recognise it more readily in others than we can in ourselves. We have to discover our own definition of it

— Twyla Tharp

Although we may not all agree on who deserves such honours, most artists speak with reverence of The Masters – those elevated few whose insight, skill, dedication or courage set them apart as worthy of admiration and commemoration, and whose works and philosophies often mark pivotal shifts in the evolution of art and artists. In discussing what makes one a master several difficult topics arise, starting with the fact that no specific definition, governing body or set of criteria exist that can be used objectively as a measure of worthiness. In a time when celebrity is decoupled from accomplishment, it is worth examining what makes one a master, and whether there is value in striving to become one. After much thinking I concluded that I am not, and will never be a master, not for lack of admiration for those who are, but because I chose to not live up to my own definition of the term.


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