Reflections on the work of Guy Tal

In an earlier post I discussed an Outdoor Photography article where David Ward was sharing his opinion on current trends in landscape photography and made reference to a quote by Guy Tal who describes himself as ‘an artist who uses the medium of photography’.    Guy’s quote, taken from a recent interview was:

‘The purpose of illustration is to say: ‘Here’s what you would have seen had you been there’

The purpose of art is to say: ‘Here’s what you would not have seen had I not shown it to you, even if you were standing next to me’

The message that came from this article was that whilst ‘Images With Impact’ may catch your eye and make the glossy magazines in the short-term, photographers need to put something of themselves into their work and ‘create’ something unique for their photographs to stand the test of time.  I decided to research Guy Tal and his work a little  further and found  his website well worth visiting.

As well as the usual links to images, courses and workshops he runs, books on sale and image galleries, he runs a blog/journal and although I have said before that I tend to steer away from blogs because I get so frustrated by the inane comments made by some of the visitors, I found myself really interested in what Guy had to say.   In one particular post entitled ‘Balancing Breadth and Depth’, Guy talked about his approach to photography and how in particular, he did not consider himself to be a travel photographer, most of whom he says ‘make brief visits to a variety of places and portray their momentary impressions’, the result always being from the perspective of an outsider.   Guy on the other hand has to know his subject matter intimately and will make many visits to a location, or more recently, felt he actually needed to live there and become part of the scene to feel the emotion that he wants to portray.   For most people, this may seem a little extreme and I’m not sure it is entirely fair to other photographers.  Any successful photographer will tell you that you have to take time to get to know your subject thoroughly, regardless of whether you are shooting tigers in India or the sun rising over the top of a mountain in the North of Scotland.

In terms of Guy Tal’s images, I restricted myself on this occasion to viewing black and white images because I am currently thinking about suitable subject matter for my next assignment.  I need to choose a theme that I can undertake close to home, my tutor has indicated this and Guy’s blog confirmed it and living in the Forest of Dean, I have been thinking along the lines of trees.  One particular portfolio, Northwest Melancholy, really interested me as it predominantly focuses on trees, woodland, leaves, in fact the sort of images I have learned to think of as being ‘within the landscape’.  Most of the images in this and the other portfolios have a very ‘painterly’ feel about them and if I’m honest, many seem over processed for my liking but I guess this is the artistic emotion coming though.  For this particular portfolio, Guy has chosen a sepia tone which does work well.  I was worried that trees might not provide enough contrast for my black and white assignment and certainly,  many of these images are not particularly high contrast but what does stand out are the lines, shapes, form and texture, all of which are important elements of black and white photographs.

Pebbles in the rain, Guy Tal

Pebbles in the rain, Guy Tal

One image in particular that took my eye was this one,  Pebbles in the rain.  Why? Because it reminded me of a picture I took on my landscape photography workshop in North West Scotland last year.

A touch of blue, Anne Bryson

A touch of blue, Anne Bryson

I don’t assume for a moment that my effort matches that of Guy Tal but maybe there is a creative streak in me after all! [, accessed 10 April, 2013]


About Anne Bryson

I live in Gloucestershire with my husband Iain and West Highland Terrier, Isla. I enjoy golf, photography and my grandchildren, not necessarily in that order! Having completed a 10 week digital photography course with the Open University in 2010 and wanting to take photography further, I enrolled on the Open College of the Arts BA (Hons) starting with 'The Art of Photography' which I thoroughly enjoyed. Next came Digital Photographic Practice followed by People and Place. In April 2016 I progressed to level two with Documentary and in June 2018 enrolled on my latest OCA course, Landscape.
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