Guy Tal, Art Photographer and Educator
Guy Tal found success working in Silicon Valley for six years and then at a Utah financial services firm, before deciding to give up both the rat race and the financial security at age thirty-eight to pursue art photography full time. “It was very scary after having ‘invisible hands’ put money in my bank account each week, but it was something I knew I had to do.
“I’d gotten interested in photography as a teenager, and practiced it semi-professionally for more than fifteen years, selling and publishing a lot; so I had a good foundation. When I started, I didn’t focus on selling my work, but on teaching about the creative process. By the time I left my corporate job, I already sold books and essays, and had published articles in national publications. My workshops had also gotten a lot of good feedback, and I had a good online following, and that’s what I relied on.
“There have been a lot of challenges in recent years that have made it very difficult to make a living in this kind of photography. Probably the biggest has been the change in selling stock images, which at one time was the major source of income for many photographers, and now, with the free services on the Internet, has largely died out. So these days, unless you’re a big name with strong client relationships, it’s very tough to make a living selling photographs.
“For me, focusing on instruction, leading photography tours and publishing, have proven to be a good business. There used to be a mantra in the business that photographers don’t buy other photographers’ work, but I never subscribed to that – probably because I didn’t find it to be true about myself. So, my customers and clients often are professional photographers, or people who intend to pursue it seriously. Rather than focus on the technical minutia of operating a camera, or simply drive people around to postcard locations, my workshops are about the practice of photography as art, on finding ways of relating to the natural world on a personal, interpretive, level, and expressing the significance of such experiences through photography.
“I work with people who are at many different levels, though I do weed out the very, very beginners, since it’s important to have a working knowledge of the camera out of the way in order to pursue creative work. It also offers a unique experience because we go beyond the well-known iconic views, particularly in some of the remote areas we visit in the national parks, and spend time on understanding the art and science of expressive imagery, rather than simply documenting natural phenomena.
“I offer some workshops where I’m the primary teacher, but I also sometimes collaborate with others. We give field workshops, and then every other year or so I offer a limited number of one-on-one internships by phone and Skype with up to five students.
“I approach the photography of natural things as a form of art and creative expression, and I believe that beyond producing aesthetic images, it can also be a means of finding happiness and fulfillment. My process is described in detail in my Creative Series ebooks, which outline my six-phase process of Concept, Visualization, Composition, Capture, Processing and Presentation.
“When I’m working on a piece, I think and visualize first, and then use tools to express the story I want to tell with the image, or a portfolio of images. It’s not about the technical trivia of using a camera, but about sharing something meaningful and personal.”
In an article in Aperture Academy, Guy said this about the biggest challenge facing landscape and wilderness photographers in the future:
“I think we are the lucky ones. We still have wilderness available to us, and revolutionary technologies we can employ to create images like never before. While I see technology improving, I fear that the experiences we are after are fast disappearing in favor of misguided corporate and political agendas. If at some point in the future you could have a 100-megapixel camera that weighs less than a pound and costs $500 but nowhere left to hike and experience and camp in solitude, there will no longer be a reason for what we do.”
Guy Tal’s work has been published in many magazines, including LensWork Magazine, Outdoor Photographer Magazine, Popular Photography Magazine, Digital Photographer, Landscape Photography Magazine, and On Landscape. He’s said, “I do not consider myself as a photographer who creates art, but rather an artist working in the medium of photography. Where some photographers take a representational approach to the landscape, I wish instead to use visual elements and natural aesthetics as evocative metaphors, creating images that are not merely of, but about places and things that have become personally significant to me.”