Guy Tal • Virtual Mentors

Great mentors, even if not available for private consultation, often leave legacies of teachings and thoughts, and there is great value in seeking them. Guy Tal is sharing with us his intriguing thoughts on photography mentors

Mentorship perhaps is the most significant form of teaching. Once technical skill and craft are learned, further advancement has to come from within; from the photographer’s own mind and sensibilities, from having something of their own to say to, and about, the world. Many photographers manage such feats on their own, though mentors may play a crucial role in the transition. A good mentor is one who offers students not a way of doing, but a way of thinking about their work, their goals and their priorities.

I have not had the privilege of a mentor. More accurately, I never had the pleasure of interacting with the people who became my virtual mentors. They were deceased by the time I found their teachings and musings, though their influence on me was profound.

Like many, when the trivial matters of photographing well-known spots at the prescribed ‘right’ time began to lose flavour, I sought inspiration in the writings of photographers I admired. There is no way around it, in all matters photographic the legacy of Ansel Adams looms large, and I began with his ...

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About Author

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I am a full-time photographer, writer, and naturalist living and working in the Colorado Plateau – a scenic and diverse desert region of the western United States spanning an area larger than most countries and states.

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    R.Dale Orcutt on

    ELIOT PORTER has been my virtual mentor-of-note, since my teen years in the early 1970’s, when I ‘discovered’ his first Sierra Club-published exhibit format photo book “In Wildness Is The Preservation Of The World” inspired by, and featuring some of the natural history journal writings of Henry David Thoreau, paired with Porter’s large format photography. Porter came to Oklahoma City back in the ’80s for an exhibition of his “Images Of The West,” at (as it was known then) The National Cowboy Hall Of Fame, where, for a $5 ticket, I got to hear him lecture, ask him a question, and autograph my (soft-bound) copy of his book, which he was a bit reluctant and chagrinned to do, because he considered the imagery in the paperbound version to be of such low quality, as compared to the lacquered photos in the hardbound edition. Since then, I’ve added 11 other Porter titles to my photo book ‘library’ (I don’t have everything…yet) in several of which he wrote extensively, sharing his history, inspirations and photographic insights. (Ansel Adams, similarly came to OKC in the ’80s, for an exhibition of his works at the Cowboy Hall, which I also attended). Porter’s book “Appalachian Wilderness – The Great Smoky Mountains” –also autographed– contains many of my favorites of his inspiring ‘intimate’ nature landscapes.

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