on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

On Becoming

Live Your Questions Now

Guy Tal

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

The highest reward for a person's toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it. ~John Ruskin

I write these words as I am coming to terms with recent changes in my life. A prolonged illness left me feeling different (truly the only term that seems appropriate), and I am learning to make peace with, and to find meaning in, the change.

I was asked again recently if I have advice for budding photographers. In the past, such questions made me a bit uncomfortable, not because I don’t have worthwhile lessons from three decades of making photographs that I believe are worth sharing, but because I find it hard to address photography in the abstract and without also explaining its role in my life. Photography to me has always been a way of augmenting experiences, rather than to pursue something for its own sake. The most important lesson I learned is that photography, when practised with certain attitudes and priorities, has the power to not just serve as a means of capturing and sharing visual anecdotes but also to help the photographer grow as a person. Knowing that such rewards are possible, what good is any advice for making “better” photographs if it doesn’t also direct the photographer toward loftier life goals?

And so, my advice to photographers—whether budding or accomplished—is this: think not only about improving your photography but also about how, through photography, you may also improve yourself.

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  • James Lorentson

    Guy, I don’t know what is more strikingly beautiful, your images or your profound and poetic writing. Thank you for sharing your wonderful gifts and wisdom with us!

    -James P

  • Deigh Bates

    Thank you so much for this post – when I see your name on an article in onLandscape it is always a joy and this article just made my morning. Reading it closely is almost like entering a meditative state.

  • J. Paul Moore

    This really strikes a chord deep within me. Thank you for sharing your heart and your beautiful photography.

  • Thank you very much for the kind words, J. Paul, Deigh and James!

  • Lori Ryerson

    Needless to say (but I will anyway, because that’s never stopped me), I am glad to hear that you have come to terms with the beast, and that you have been able to make some peace with it and the changes it has wrought. A year down the road, positive energies continue to be sent your way, Guy. Now that you are back from the symposium, I expect you’ll need your usual infusion of beauty from the canyons, so I’ll throw in a little extra dollop of silence, too. Speaking from the other end of it, I expect your “becoming” in this next decade may still continue to surprise you. It certainly did for me. À la prochaine, sensei.

    • Thank you, Lori! I’ve experienced enough surprises to not take things for granted. Hope you’re well!

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