gu·ru  /goo’ roo/  noun: 1) a teacher and especially intellectual guide in matters of fundamental concern; 2)  one who is an acknowledged leader or chief proponent; 3) a person with knowledge or expertise

Along Lime Kiln Road in Winter, copyright J. Riley Stewart, 40x32 in archival pigment print.
Along Lime Kiln Road in Winter, copyright J. Riley Stewart, 40×32 in archival pigment print.

I crave learning from others about the art in photography. Unfortunately, those I grew up learning from about what it takes to make a truly fine art print are no longer with us. I truly miss them. And I bet I’m not alone.

When I started seriously making and printing photographs in the 1970s, my favorite subscription was to Fred Picker’s monthly newsletter. I received it for 3 years or so, then had to abandon it for a couple years, during which he became ill and stopped publishing. But while it lasted, I poured over those pages time and time again to glean every bit of information he shared about making “the fine print.”

I also bought every one of Ansel Adams’s photography learning books, and read them all even though I found them a bit technical and stuffy. Picker’s writing, on the other hand, was fun to read and easier to understand. And he covered more about the art in photography than did Adams.

More recently, I found the wonderful content published online through “The Mindful Eye” by Craig Tanner. You can still access the great lessons he created over several years, but discontinued in 2011:

I consider Adams, Picker, and Tanner to be true gurus of the art in photography. I am unaware of any that today come close to teaching us about the making of artful photographs in any consistent manner.  Sure, there are tons of folks who write short articles about gear (God do we need any more of this???), and others who offer field workshops that focus on shooting tasks, and even some who sporadically write about how they realize their photographic vision, but where are the true gurus today?

Who are the experienced photographers who write specifically and selflessly solely to teach us what we need to know to be better artists?

It’s true that in this internet age, access to information is so much better than it used to be. You’d think that my question would be superflous as we sit in 2015. So, perhaps a better question would ask: “Have these gurus been replaced by Google search, from which we can get hundreds of relevant hits linking us to dozens of articles relevant to the art in photography?”   Uhhh, I don’t think so. I have to admit that when I want to know more about a technique, I can find very useful hits by doing a Google search. But try to find a hit to a credible person writing today about HOW and WHY they approach the making of fine prints to realize their artistic vision. Good luck.

As scant as it is, so much of what is written today about photographic art relates to web viewing and the ‘6 second’ mentality associated with such images. There is very little written about the making of beautiful, large exhibition prints. For example, large clipped areas in an image may be acceptable in 800×640 pixel format, but just try to get away with that in a 16×20 inch or larger print…..ghastly. And how many B&W images have you seen where convergence of gray tones has reduced the artistic impact to zero?  But where are developing photographers (or even experienced photographers) to turn to learn these fundamental lessons, short of trial and error?

If you know of such a source, please share it in the comments below. I’d really like to find them! Who are your gurus?

Happy Learning!SignatureLogo 200x75


PS> Want to see examples of my work? Go to Galleries and more…  Have fun!

Comments are closed.