on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

The Path Towards Expression

Unlearning the learnt

Rafael Rojas

Rafael Rojas (Master Hasselblad 2014, MA Photography, ARPS), is a Swiss and Spanish full-time artist photographer, lecturer, author, and creativity mentor. He has been involved in teaching most of his life, first helping young students, then teaching undergrads, and later as a university lecturer.

Nowadays, his teaching activities focus on helping photographers see the world with different eyes and use photography as a tool of personal and creative expression.

After seven years of work, the MasterCOURSE “Photography with Intent”, an intensive mentoring program for Expressive Photographers, has become the apex of his teaching career and his utmost contribution to the Community of Photographers.



Artistic photography is a unique form of creative expression, combining technical and compositional skills and reflecting very much the personality, maturity and personal philosophy of the photographer.

Mastering photography is a lifelong process. In fact, it never ends, it is simply terminated the moment we cease our existence. This is no different to mastering any other field, particularly when head, hands and soul need to cooperate in its practice.

The emerging picture from such studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world class expert in anything… It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery”
~ Daniel Levitin, This Is Your Brain: The Science of a Human Obsession p.197.

If we take a look at any of the old Masters of Photography, we can see that all of them fit the profile of being relatively obsessive, passionate, patient and with a very strong commitment to their craft and art in terms of time and energy.

This is somewhat uncomfortable to hear, particularly nowadays when we seldom have time to do anything or have the patience to wait for the results. In this world of ours, of immediacy and shortcuts to the summit, becoming a master photographer has been trivialised and there are many who think that good marketing, big print sizes or strong impact can serve to compensate for a lack of egoless passion, hard work and tireless dedication. Fortunately, this is not true, and never will be.

John Szarkowski, the former curator of the MoMA and one of the most important individuals in the history of photographic art, already warned against this a few decades ago: “It is not quite satisfying to be told that growth comes in tiny increments, during long days of plain work. We prefer to think of it arriving as a series of epiphanies, each opening a door onto a world that had previously been hidden.”

Even if I agree with Mr Szarkowski, I also think that such moments of epiphany do occur. However, these do not happen at will, they cannot be rushed or artificially provoked. They only happen as a side effect of a prolonged and sustained period of work, commitment and reflection in the first place.

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