More Than A Rock
by Guy Tal
Publisher: Rocky Nook
I got my entrance into the world of professional photography by working for one of greats; Galen Rowell was a world-class adventurer, photographer, and author whose writing was on par with his amazing photography. His writing managed to bring a wonderful a communion to the world of photography, visualization, passion, and nature. He was like a combination of Ansel Adams, John Muir, and the Energizer Bunny Rabbit. Since Rowell’s passing more than a decade ago, I feel there are few other artists working today who uses the blending of words and images in such a powerful and touching form of communication as Guy Tal. Although Guy is not the world-traveling adventurer like Rowell was, it’s probably fair to say his wordsmithing is more delicate and expressive. Perhaps Guy is better described as a blending of Adams and Muir, but substituting the Energizer Bunny with a large dose of Thoreau.
I should note here that I personally know Guy, having spent a small bit of time with him on number of occasions, and in exchanging correspondence over the years. But I don’t let that personal interaction bias my opinion in this regard. Just as we know when someone’s photographic vision can inspire, impress, or create an evocative emotional response in a viewer, the same can be said about how written words can resonate with readers.
Guy’s book, More Than A Rock brings together a collection of essays on Life, Nature, Photography, Creativity, and Art which were born out of his own deep personal connection to the high deserts of the American West that he’s chosen to call home. In fact, Guy actively pursues what many might consider to be a nearly ideal Walden-esque type life, proactively choosing to make the experience of living simply and in nature so that it fuels his creativity and feeds his passions.
More Than A Rock is divided into a series of four thematic categories on Art, Craft, Experiences, and Meditations, each containing a dozen or more essays. Each essay is accompanied by an introductory quote from the likes of Walker Evans, Ansel Adams, and Wallace Stenger to name but a few. Guy’s real talent shines in the way he crafts words which create mental imagery that is as expressive as his photography. His choice of words describe both places and thoughts in nuanced layers which resonate with a deep connectivity both to the individual, the grand scheme of nature, and the essence of being alive. His photography is the vocabulary of the planet and the seasons of the desert. One of the things that I love most about the book is how you can practically open to any page and see either a beautifully crafted intimate photograph or pick out lines of text painting equally intimate and expressive thoughts. For instance, here are a few random examples.
From page 146, Essay: Wilderness and Me.
The only way something matters–the only way something has meaning–is as it pertains to a miniscule flicker of consciousness within the sliver of eternity that is the present. Mattering is not a quality that can be objectively measured or quantified; it is the subjective degree to which something–an event, sensation, object, knowledge, or perception–affects one’s living experience.
From page 58, Essay: What Makes an Artist.
I think there are three mistakes most people make when deciding to refer to themselves as artists: the first being concern with formal education in art, as taught in schools or promoted by the “art world”; second is worrying about what other people may think, and third is measuring their worth by whatever products they may create and how these products qualitatively relate to those products produced by others.
From page 168, Essay: Living the Life.
As I set up my camp on a lofty ledge above the river, I watched ravens perform aerobatic dances in the afternoon wind, listened to the warbling of a male meadowlark, and delighted in the rich scents of riparian desert flora. To say that I was happy may miss the point. Contentment maybe a better word for it. Most people associate happiness with fleeting episodes of elation, but contentment is a sustained state, a goal to be pursued in its own right, regardless of any other purpose or outcome.
Guy’s photographs are as exquisite and detailed as his words. Each speaks volumes about his personal vision and his connection to the world as he experiences it, demonstrating an innate internal sensitivity that gets translated into a wonderful tangible expression. The following photographs appear courtesy of and are copyright Guy Tal.
Now perhaps it’s to my own editorial bias, but there’s only one small thing I might like to have seen included in the book. Guy’s photographs are all presented in the book without any caption or title. That’s fine; they stand alone perfectly, and in an artistic context they need no explanation, caption, or title. Still, many if not most of Guy’s readers are photographers themselves, and likely have a deeper interest in his photographic work than mere lovers of words who look at illustrations as a secondary form of content filler. It might have been nice to see a simple appendix listing of photographs with a title and maybe the most basic location caption.
So, who is this book for? One thing is for sure, it’s not for the technical enthusiast, the pixel-peeping gadget-guru photographer, or the lustful and enthusiastic amateur seeking to gain a cornucopia of how-to tidbits. There’s none of that it in this book. Zero. Nada. This book isn’t about that–just like you wouldn’t read Thoreau’s Walden to get in-depth tips on landscaping or cooking. Rather, and to steal a title from one of Galen Rowell’s popular books, this book is more about the Inner Game of Photography, but it’s also an internalized and externalized thoughtful exploration of Art, and of Living a Creative and Meaningful Life. If you’re looking for something that transcends shutter speeds, aperture settings, and the rules of composition, and instead seek something which might strike a deeper chord of inspiration, movement, or meaning, than this is the book for you.
To see more of Guy Tal’s work visit his website at GuyTal.com
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Gary Crabbe is an award-winning commercial and editorial outdoor travel photographer and author based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, California. He has seven published books on California to his credit, including “Photographing California; v1-North”, which won the prestigious 2013 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Gold Medal award as Best Regional title. His client and publication credits include the National Geographic Society, the New York Times, Forbes Magazine, TIME, The North Face, Subaru, L.L. Bean, Victoria’s Secret, Sunset Magazine, The Nature Conservancy, and many more. Gary is also a photography instructor and consultant, offering both public and private photo workshops. He also works occasionally a professional freelance Photo Editor.