Twenty Eighteen

| December 23, 2018

Vastness! and Age! and Memories of Eld!

Silence! and Desolation! and dim Night!

I feel ye now – I feel ye in your strength.

~Edgar Allan Poe

I was about to start this post saying that 2018 had been a year of formidable challenges and deep reflection, when I realized that these describe just as well every one of my years to date. The common denominator is obvious. The difference, as always, is not so much the what as it is the why and how. And these, I confess, I struggle to explain even as I write these words. But I’ll try.

This is so far the fourth iteration of this post, and the only one that trusted friends did not suggest I refrain from making public. I may explain the reasons at some later time, if and when I feel more confident in my desire and ability to do so. Alas, it is my nature to find comfort in the fact that the great majority of my life unfolds away from public view. Also, I am of a generation (perhaps the last) that still values privacy. So, without going into detail, I will mention that in the past few years I’ve been struggling with an illness whose implications I am still learning and coming to terms with. Among other things, it has affected my productivity and my ability to work on a couple of projects (primarily books) I had hoped to finish this year, and that will be pushed into 2019.

Several people asked me when/whether I plan to publish another essay book. Rest assured, a manuscript is already written. There is still a fair amount of editing and design work remaining, but the text is nearly finished. I will, of course, provide updates as I have them.

Photographically, to my surprise more than anyone else’s, 2018 has so far been my most productive year. To give you a sense, I made almost twice as many images this year as I have in 2016, and just over 40% more than I have in 2017. Of course, volume is not necessarily correlated with quality, but I am cautiously optimistic that the reason I felt more motivated to photograph has to do with new treatment and medication I started around March of this year.

I find it odd to confine life events and creative evolution to the arbitrary boundaries of a calendar year, but, as I have noted before, I welcome the excuse to pause and examine the progress, trends, and implications of my experiences in the past months. I believe my work this year, perhaps as a result of dealing with some formidable setbacks, has continued to grow more intimate and expressive. I feel that I have also made progress in my studies of visual expression and in finding ways to apply new knowledge in my work.

This past year, I have also began to emphasize in my teachings such topics as creativity and self-expression. It is my sense that, as digital technology has drawn many people to photography in the past 10-15 years, and as many of these people have now reached the fabled “10,000 hours,” there is a growing interest in finding some “next level.”

I’m not sure when it happened, but it seems that I and some of my contemporaries have become sufficiently old (hopefully, also more experienced, perhaps even wiser) as to now be considered as the previous generation. I take it as both a sign of maturity, an affirmation that my path (random as it was) has been rewarding and useful, and as an indication that it is time for me to consider new priorities. Competition has never interested me much, not in business, not in art, not really in anything. With the privilege of having accumulated some knowledge and experience, I find interest in the works of some younger photographers, and I believe it is important to offer these photographers whatever support and encouragement I can.

Of course, I would be remiss to not also acknowledge my previous generation—those lions of photography who set for me and my contemporaries a truly honorable example, being paragons of outdoor ethics, conservation, promoters of photography as art, and pioneers in creating the very business I am now in. You (hopefully) know who you are. Thank you!

For what it’s worth, my generation has experienced the revolutions of the Internet and digital photography, among many others. Perhaps less obvious, but in my lifetime there has also been tremendous progress in art and science, much of which is relevant to photographers and that I believe is worth teaching. On the other hand, in my lifetime the planet has lost more than half its wildlife in what is now considered the sixth great extinction event in Earth’s history, largely attributed to the antics of my fellow hairless apes. Lest we forget or become too complacent in our intellect or beliefs, consider that extinction, arguably, is the most natural thing to happen to any species. Whether humanity persists beyond the next few decades or centuries may be a matter of some speculation, but that should not distract each of us from considering with great seriousness the unrelenting hourglass of our days and moments.

Last but not least, some of you have generously signed up as patrons of my work, using the website Patreon. I am neither wealthy enough nor vain enough to turn down financial support offered in good faith, and I am sincerely grateful. I am also grateful to all who took the time to read my books, to express thoughts about my work, and to subscribe to the publications I contribute to. Whether your support is financial or other, please accept my thanks. I hope I can continue to earn your interest.

You may browse my work from 2018, along with hundreds of previous works, using the Image Stream feature on my website. Additional changes, new collections, and new writings are in the works.

I wish you a peaceful rest of the year, and a wonderful New Year.

Better Than Gold
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Category: All Posts, Featured, Journal

About the Author ()

Guy Tal is an author and photographic artist. He resides in a remote part of Utah, in a high desert region known as the Colorado Plateau—a place that inspired him deeply for much of his life and that continues to feature in his images and writing. In his photographic work, Guy seeks to articulate a reverence for the wild. He writes about, and teaches, the values of living a creative life and finding fulfillment through one’s art.

Comments (11)

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  1. Whatever your problems Guy you are an inspiration. Here’s wishing you a great 2019 in every way.

  2. Chris Murray says:

    Wishing you better health and much peace in the new year, Guy.

  3. Tif says:

    For me, Guy, you’re proof that The Work can still be done with integrity. Thank you for that.

    Here’s to renewed strength and support for the challenges to come.

    Wishing you peace this holiday season.

  4. Guy,

    I honor you, as you honor the lions “of photography who set for me and my contemporaries a truly honorable example, being paragons of outdoor ethics, conservation, promoters of photography”.

    Because of your awareness and openness to other artists, you shared the life work of William Neill and his retrospective book, which I, in turn, shared with photo students as a keen example of fine nature work.

    Life is fragile. Here, now is all. Know that all you are, Guy inspires!

  5. Cheryl Tarr says:

    I always find encouragement and inspiration in your words and images. Wishing you peace and prosperity in 2019!

  6. Norm St. Landau says:

    May your 2019 be satisfying, Guy

    I have appreciated and personally benefitted from your photographic instruction, processing instruction, and commentary on living in and experiencing this complex world for years now.

    I moved to a rural area of the Chesapeake bay region in ‘03 following MS diagnosis which has limited many aspects of my life. Since then, I’ve immersed myself in photography for the art and craft and science it teaches to explore in detail my beautiful surroundings – relying heavily on the teachings and guidance from afar of Guy Tal.

    Many, many thanks. I have new projects in mind and am looking forward to them in 2019.

    Cheers!

  7. Michael Johnson says:

    Guy,

    I recently reached the age of 50. I have managed a chronic illness for over twenty years and photography has been a key ingredient of coping with my situation. Over the years, I have seen plenty of “pretty pictures” but more desperately seek the meaning of them. I feel grateful to have discovered you and anyone else who might be seeking the why behind the photographs. I love taking pictures but more than that, I am seeking the meaning behind my motivations. I am also looking to understand the places I find have something to teach me. Keep digging in the places you find meaningful. That is where I will meet you. More and more it seems this world has gone crazy. You make me feel less alone.

  8. Lori Ryerson says:

    Yes, we are the generation that knows life before the Internet. It is strange to think that my children don’t know how that feels. One of them once asked, “Mom, what did you do before Google?” and I had to explain to them about using the Library, and getting on a wait list for weeks at a time, all for the opportunity to read a book with real paper pages LOL.

    For all of your self-imposed solitary reclusiveness, the Internet is the perfect place for you. A virtual gathering, turned on and off at will, like a gas fireplace, to warm your hands periodically on the hearts and souls of those who watch and learn from you and your work, and in turn for you to seek that from others.

    As we continue to mature, and add trips around the sun, and evolve, we begin to realize that being “productive” may not so much built on churning out more images, or creating more literature (although I certainly understand the need to pay the bills of our corporeal existence LOL, I’m glad you signed up to PATREON). Being productive at this stage is sometimes about DOING less, and BEING more. Which dovetails perfectly with your increased focus on creativity, self-expression and mentorship of the next wave.

    On the really bad days, when the demons escape to wreak their havoc on your mind and body, perhaps reread some of the comments here, mon ami. Integrity. Inspiration. Teacher. Guide. Profound impact. Influence. And that last one, in the ironic yin and yang of the universe, “You make me feel less alone.” On that favourite subject of yours, of leading a rewarding life, I truly cannot think of anything more rewarding than leaving this legacy of knowledge and inspiration behind.

    As always, sending light and laughter from the north.

  9. Jack Larson says:

    Guy, others, especially Lori Ryerson, have expressed beautifully what so many of us feel. Personally, you have had a profound effect on my photographic and human journey. I am greatly indebted to you. In your struggles, I hold you deep inside of me. May 2019 bring you hope, healing, joy and peace.

  10. Laura Zirino says:

    I can’t improve on what Lori said, so I’ll just say “what she said”. I’m sitting here now working on the sun flare image I shot at your workshop, and while I haven’t yet looked at what your PS book suggests, it’s on my list of things to do on my two week break. This photo is probably the most expressive that I have ever shot, and I couldn’t have done it without the insights you imparted, along with the wisdom to support me to go out on my own that day. Your many gifts are reaching far out into the world, both through what you create and what you bring out in others.

  11. Mark says:

    The antics of our fellow hairless apes you mention seem inescapable to me these days. They are a constant weight as well as a personal burden for my own contributions, my very own existence. I used to turn to photography as a way to escape, now it becomes such a reminder of what is at stake. To what end I often wonder. Is it to create a bridge to our own sanity, a comfort we seek in our unknowable days remaining here? Is it to serve as a motivation to do more? The cynic in me has little faith in the population at large being influenced by such activities.

    I do know that these introspective thoughts about our engagements with this world, our art are fascilitated in part by your writings and photographs here and elsewhere. For that I am thankful beyond words. Wish you the best in creative life and health for 2019 Guy.