Interview with Guy Tal
#1 Please introduce yourself
I am a professional author and photographic artist living and working in the American Southwest. I approach photography of natural things as a form of art and creative expression. I teach and write about creativity and art as a means to finding happiness and fulfillment.
#2 How did you get interested in photography?
It was one of those happy accidents that end up having a profound effect. As a kid I loved exploring the fields around our house and used to spend hours hiking and exploring and learning about every flower and critter and rock I could find. One day I borrowed my dad’s camera to document some of the things that fascinated me, and the sheer joy of finding, framing and composing them started me down the path. Not one image on that roll of film was usable, but I was inspired to get my own camera and learn how to use it.
#3 Do you have an artistic/photographic background?
I have studied art but never majored in it. I’ve always been an autodidact and when something excites me, I’ll read and practice everything I can find about it. Strangely, I never thought of myself as an artist or of my photography as art for quite some time. It must have taken me nearly two decades and many life experiences to realize what I could do with photography as an artist rather than a documentarian.
#4 Which artist/photographer inspired your art?
The list is too long and I still discover new inspirations all the time. I consider myself fortunate in that when I first began photographing I was not even aware of the works of other photographers. In fact I was not even exposed to the work of Ansel Adams until about ten years after I started my own photographic journey. Though I did not know it at the time, it allowed me to develop my own sensibilities without too many other influences. Although I had many role models, if I had to mention just one name it would likely be Edward Weston, whose works and writing I discovered around the time I began to consider my own work in terms of artistic expression. His approach to life and photography helped me embrace some of the risks and rewards of living the life of an artist, even though he never liked to think of himself in those terms.
#5 How much preparation do you put into taking a photograph? Are you planning every step or is it always spontaneous?
I think the term “taking a photograph” implies something that is contrary to photography as art. “Taking” suggests the finished product was already there and my role is limited to finding, capturing or collecting it rather than being an active participant in its creation. This is very far from what I do. I work from inspiration, and I use the things that inspire me to tell stories of my relationship with them. Sometimes it may be a spontaneous response, and other times it may be a concept I’ve been thinking about for a while before deciding how best to express it. By far, most of the preparation is of the mind, not the photograph. When I’m feeling creative, I see more and can express things more eloquently in my images.
#6 What fascinates you in places that you shoot?
Everything. I think the proper state of mind for any artist is to constantly be fascinated with the world around them.
#7 Could you please tell us something about your technique and creating process?
My process is described in detail in my Creative Series eBooks (http://guytalbooks.com/catalog_category.php?cid=1). It consists of six phases: Concept, Visualization, Composition, Capture, Processing and Presentation. By “concept” I mean something very abstract – an idea. The rest of the process is aimed at guiding this idea to a visual representation. My technique is simple: I visualize the end result before ever touching the camera. With the visualized image in my mind, I then capture what I need with the camera (currently a Canon DSLR, though I used many others in the past), which is really the easiest and least exciting part of the process for me. I then process my work in Adobe Photoshop to achieve the visualized result. I have a 24” printer in my studio and print primarily on Ilford Gold Fibre Silk and Hahnemuhle Photo Rag papers.
#8 Could you tell our readers how to reach such excellent results in photography?
Think and visualize first, and apply tools second. Try to tell stories and convey emotions that will interest your viewers beyond trivial things like sharpness or detail, which are really technical challenges rather than creative ones, and are pretty easy to master. Excellence in technique is just a part of excellence in the end result. If your image doesn’t hold the viewer’s interest beyond the momentary aesthetic impression, it will soon be forgotten, no matter how technically good or visually pleasing it is.
And, realize that your work will evolve with you. There is no point at which you become a “master” and have nothing left to learn. So, take the time to fine tune your work, examine yourself and your images and keep learning and adapting. Volume is only important if you want to be a stock photographer for a living. If you want to create meaningful work, allow yourself the time to study, be inspired by, and develop a relationship with your subjects. There are no shortcuts. Art is a lifelong journey and much of the satisfaction of it comes from experimenting, making mistakes, reinventing yourself, discovering, and becoming more aware of your world. Don’t rush it; revel in it.
#9 What do you do in your life besides photography?
I think that anyone who can list everything they do in life in one paragraph must have a pretty boring life. The easy answer is: I live first, and “do” whatever it takes to live a meaningful and satisfying life. That includes photography, writing, reading, listening to music, cooking, meditating, and a very long list of other things.
#10 What future plans do you have? What projects would you like to accomplish?
My future plans are the same as my current plans – to find fulfillment and inspiration. I don’t need to accomplish anything for that. Accomplishments are by-products of living a meaningful life, not the purpose of it.
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