Would You Learn Photography From This Man?

In Just For Fun, Life Is Short, News & Stuff by David63 Comments

I show you this against all better judgement. 😂 The image above is from a previous life as a comedian. My stage name was The Rubber Chicken Guy. You can imagine how proud my mother was. The graphic on the left is the cover of my DVD.

I feel like I know you. Maybe not everyone who reads my blog or emails, but so many of you have replied to one of my letters, commented here on my blog, or introduced yourself to me in person that I feel I’ve somehow stumbled into a really wonderful friendship I didn’t know I needed. Sometimes I wonder if the thing I want most professionally is just to get us all into the same room, have a drink, and tell some stories.  

If we were to do that, these are some of the things that might just slip out—the chances of which increase dramatically as the evening (and the wine) wears on. Those things would either make you wonder if choosing to learn anything from me was a good idea or confirm that I’m exactly your kind of people.

I should warn you; there’s no point to this. It’s not leading to a metaphor about photography, and there’s probably no value in discovering, for example, that my childhood nickname was “Monkey Doodle.”

I just thought, given the amount of time we spend together, that there are a few things you might not know about me and that perhaps there might be something I don’t know about you.

Here we go!  

I’m a voracious reader; I usually have two or three books on the go. Currently: The Tree by John Fowles, Black Box Thinking by Matthew Sayed, and Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. My last novel was The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett. If I had to pick between the pictures and the thousand words, I think I’d choose the words.  

I have Type 1 diabetes, which should surprise no one, given the amount of Froot Loops I ate as a teenager. I was diagnosed when I was 20. That’s about 55,000 jabs for a guy who hates needles. While navigating my diagnosis and what it might mean for me, I remember my mother telling me I could control my diabetes or it could control me. I chose the former, and it hasn’t once stopped me from doing what I do. Take that, pancreas.  

One of my first jobs was as a clown at a shopping mall handing out balloons. I took it because I love kids. Kids, it turns out, do not love clowns. This traumatized me forever. I should point out that the job I had accepted was to “hand out balloons.” The clown outfit was a total surprise, as was the huge tank of helium. I very much enjoyed the latter more than the former.  

I spent my first five years in Lahr, Germany, as an army brat. My best German word is Volkswagen, and I’m pretty sure I don’t pronounce it correctly.  

My first cat was toilet trained. As in, she used the actual toilet. Never flushed, though. She would also sit on top of the fridge and take a swat at anyone who walked by, as long as they were bald. Hairy people got a pass.  

I can ride a six-foot unicycle and juggle flaming torches, and steal your watch, though not usually at the same time. During one of my most memorable shows for a crowd of 100 police officers, I stole the watch of the police chief. Twice.  

I own three nice guitars and play like I should probably own just one crappy one. I do a very enthusiastic version of John Denver’s “Country Roads.” Not a good version, but I sing it with feeling.  

My beautiful wife, Cynthia, was a student on one of my workshops. We met in Italy and one week later I fell off the wall in Pisa. But we’ve been together since the day we locked eyes in the little breakfast room in the hotel in Genoa.  

I love spicy food. When I was little, my father used Tabasco on my fingernails to stop me from chewing them. It stopped me from picking my nose, too. Ouch! But now I love it (the spicy food, not the nose-picking, necessarily).  

When I was seven years old, I started my first business: a private detective agency, to help reunite people with their lost things. I gave out hand-drawn flyers made by a neighbour girl I recruited as my secretary. My mother shut it down after the phone calls started coming in. The neighbour girl never got paid, and I still feel bad about that.  

I competed in judo. Twice. Each fight lasted for 10 seconds, if you count the time I spent lying on the mat afterward. When I say, “I’ve got your back, man,” you just might want to have a Plan B.  

Speaking of competitions, I once won second place in a cartoon contest—and I was the only one who entered. You can hear more about that here. This explains my suspicion of anything competitive.  

My final photography project in Grade 12 was really good, if I do say so myself. The teacher claims it “went missing,” but for many years, I suspected it was just so good he hung onto it. In hindsight, I suspect I was wrong about that, but I sure wish I could go back in time and thank Mr. Brian Harris for lighting the spark in me. I don’t remember a single specific lesson, but he instilled something better in me: a love of craft and imagery. He lit a fire. 

If you’re really new around here or just can’t keep track of it all, here are a few ways to get more of what I create for you that you might not know about.

I have a podcast for people who don’t listen to podcasts called A Beautiful Anarchy. Dedicated to the joys and struggles of the creative life, I think it’s one of the best things I’ve made for you. You can listen here. More of a reader? You can get my creativity trilogy here. (Also, if you haven’t seen it, the Vision Is Better Show on YouTube ran for about 80 episodes, and you can catch them here.)  

If you’re not already getting The Contact Sheet, you can do that here, and if you would like to get monthly articles about creativity and quick reminders when I post new episodes of the Beautiful Anarchy podcast, you can subscribe to On The Make by going here. Just scroll to the bottom of that page and tell me where to send it. I’ll also send you a copy of Escape Your Creative Rut: 5 Ways to Find Your Groove Again. 

And if you’re one of those gluttons for punishment who insist on making a living from your creativity, then you’re my kind of person. I’d love to send you The Audience Academy, my bi-weekly email to creators, makers, and artists who want to build an audience that loves what you make and wants more of it. You can subscribe to that here, and when you do, I’ll also send you a copy of Encore! 3 Ways to Stop Marketing and Start Building an Audience That Wants More.

Looping back around (aw, crap, I said I wasn’t going to do this), after photographing for 35 years, I am still so in love with the still image. And since I’m not making many these days, I am enjoying the images of others. One of my readers, Andy Duncan, has a wonderful project called 52 Photographers, and I’ve found some lovely work there from photographers who aren’t the usual suspects, and I thought you might like to check it out here.

On the subject of photographers, here’s another that I recently discovered (and I wish I could remember who introduced him to me so I could thank you properly). Check out the work of Polish photographer Maciej Dakowicz here. I love his eye for juxtaposition; it’s wonderful stuff.  

It’s your turn. Some of the people who read these articles and emails have been doing so for over 10 years. Some are brand new to me (and me to you), and I’d love to know a little more about you. Feel like introducing yourself? I’d love to meet you, but if we’re going to do this, let’s do it right. The comments are open for conversation, a glass of virtual wine, and anything you feel I should know about you if we’re going to keep meeting like this. Spill the beans, friend.

For the Love of The Photograph,


  1. Holy shit Dave. You threw back the curtain! You’d drop so many hints over the years alot of us extreme long term followers figured it out, but its awesome to see you just lambast it.

    Good on yuou. Good words. Good art. Does anyone thing else matter?

  2. Hi David 😄I just read “Escape your creative rut” – love it!
    I’ve got a question about n°2 “Challenge your skills” – you write to try something different. Ok, I understand what you are telling us but I don’t really understand if you mean “trying” using the skills we already have (and without any knowledge about this new thing) or should we create knowledge first? Thanks.

  3. Hello David, my name is Vanna and I live in Bolzano (in Southtyrol, in the north of Italy next to the border with Austria). I’m married and have a 22 years old son (with Diabetes Typ 1 too since he was 12).
    Although we live in Italy, I was lucky enough to learn both country languages (Italian and German) from my parents. I also write, read and speak English, but my level is – how can we say … bad 🙂 . That’s why I’m so happy that I regularly receive mails from you so that I can practice my English.
    I went to a science school, started university three times, but never finished it. I am a practical person and hate sitting on books for hours. So I started working when I was 20 years old, as an employee in commercial companies. I recently resigned after 11 years from the current job to start a new job in September. This makes me totally happy … the last few months were a horror: from a near burnout to a bored-out – I have lost the joy of photography in the last few months too.
    I’m an amateur photographer, shooting 95% ice hockey. In Bolzano there is a very strong team (HCB Foxes), and I’m the official photographer. I love hockey! I always had Canon, but since January 2020 I use Fuji and this year in February I bought a wonderful lens XF200mmF2 – how to shoot hockey from another point of view.
    I love action photography and I would absolutely love street photography, but I know it’s very difficult and there are a lot of privacy rules. I am also very shy, which makes it even more difficult.

    I have so many ideas and projects in my head, but I just don’t find the strength to realize them. I’m afraid of making mistakes ( obviously in the beginning) and I always think what others would think about it. Consequently, I don’t shoot a lot – except hockey games. I often wonder if I really love taking pictures. Oh yes the well known “comfort zone”.

    BUT I always find your emails inspiring!!! They always stimulate our minds. What I find fascinating is that in every single email there is always a point to work on and think about.

  4. Thank You, David, for sharing with us such excellent tips. It is beneficial for me as a photography blogger and editor.

  5. Hi David,
    A very delayed reply to your invitation to share our backgrounds. I’m Irish, living in the Netherlands and currently writing this from Iraq where I’m here for a few weeks. I’ve a varied work history – finance, mountain guiding and latterly humanitarian NGOs. Can’t quite remember where I came across you a couple of years ago but it was certainly one of my better moments in life! Your emails, Beautiful Anarchy and courses (have done 4) are just exactly what I need(ed) and continue to refresh, educate and challenge me – not just in photographic skills but also life in general. During these crazy times, I’ve been so motivated by you in keeping creative no matter if I’m in a lockdown or have the freedom to travel. What continues to amaze me is your productivity levels and utter transparency compared to other people with such a profile as yours – or at least that I’ve come across.
    I so appreciate your wisdom and experience that you are willing to share with people like myself who love photography but where life somehow often gets in the way.
    Thank you again.

  6. Hi David!
    it was fantastic! I love your stories and there is a lot of things i have wondered about and now i know about you. Thank you a lot!
    I always was that kind of guy that can´t do anything excellent but do a lot of things good. Photography, writing (in spanish, of course), designing, with sports, or whatever, always good, never outstanding.
    But little by little i could walk through a fantastic life, good works, lot of loved ones, great travels, fantastic experiencies and always living the dream (or nearly).
    And looking for new dreams, obviously, as we understand this new path we are living
    Have a big hug from Patagonia!

  7. David, I love all your work and emails but I think this is the one I’ve enjoyed the most in all the years I’ve been following you.

  8. Hello David, having put aside photography for the last 2 weeks, I decided tonight to get back into it and the first connection was to read your long letter that tells us about you. A huge thank you for sharing these more personal aspects of your life, it’s a beautiful mark of confidence. Yes, indeed, by listening to you through the trainings or reading you through your blog and through your books, I am starting to know you a little bit. It’s not so long since I joined the group “The Vision Driven”, but I like to walk around and share with other photographers opinions, images. It’s a great place to learn.
    What can I say about myself … I discovered photography when I was 12 or 13 years old (around 1964) with my godmother and she gave me the taste not only to take pictures, but she also taught me how to work in the darkroom, which I did for a few years. I bought my first reflex camera when I arrived in Montreal in 1973: a Canon FTB with a 55mm f1.2 lens, a real gem that was stolen in 1997 in the Gorges du Verdon! It is only in 2007 that I made the jump to digital, now, without regrets.
    Apart from photography, I was born in Paris where I grew up and at 22 years old I literally fell in love with a beautiful Chilean man, I emigrated to Quebec because he had emigrated there. And it’s been 49 years since we met yesterday! I am retired and now I divide my life between Quebec where my relatives live (my husband, my son and his little family), and France which I need to find very regularly to meet the other part of my family and my friends and where I spend (normally) spring and autumn, and also Brazil where I go to find my daughter, who lives there. What amazes me the most in life (apart from the children: I taught kindergarten for almost 30 years!) is the light and the incredible beauty of nature!
    Thank you David for writing to us as a friend would!

  9. Can you come toilet train my cats! That was such a fun read! And admittedly, I have not opened up many emails for a while because I have been all about work, and not really about photography. The title got me curious. I think I discovered your photography 11 or so years ago. I really appreciated your boldness and I am so grateful for your teaching “it’s just gear”, and that I learned that from you early on. That, and as some of the photography instructors I had were ripping my images apart, even though you did not see any of them, I felt less bad about that because of your teachings about art – our personal art 🙂 I did not follow that pursuit as things got busy – my son was diagnosed with Type1 at 20 months old. I had no idea you were Type1 until you once mentioned it in a post years later – you may have been the first / one of the first adults I “knew” with T1… that made me feel so much better as a mom that there were people out there thriving with it, and just living what they wanted to do. I thought I would leave the corporate world to pursue photography, but instead I started a company in this region to support people with all types of diabetes. I have lived in Dubai, UAE the last 16 years. Istanbul for 8 years before that. I still love photography – particularly travel and documentary. Oh, and there was a shirt that you posted about.. your friends were making fun of it – you may vaguely recall, I shared that my husband owns the exact same shirt.

  10. Hi David,

    This is probably the first time I’ve responded to one of your blog posts, though I read them all with pleasure. I enjoyed “getting to know you” a bit though your post, which made me smile a lot and laugh out loud a few times. That in itself makes you my kind of person, because I love people who make me laugh.

    As for me: From the age of 5, I wanted to be an artist. But I’ve mostly skirted around the edges of it because it turns out I want to do lots of other things too. I attended art school (twice!) in my younger years, worked as a graphic designer for several years, got tired of it, went back to school in my 40s to get a BA in philosophy, and enjoyed it so much I went on to do an MA in communication. I’ve lived in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Philadelphia, Tel Aviv and Johannesburg, spent a summer in France, and backpacked around Asia for a year in the mid-80s. Like you, I’m a voracious reader, and my bookshelves are a testament to my addiction. I used to play the piano but switched to choral singing, and acquired an accordion a couple of years ago which I still think I’m going to learn to play at some point. (I started taking lessons, but Covid put a stop to in-person classes and I couldn’t make it work on Zoom.)

    For the past 15 years I’ve made my living as a graphic recorder, which involves going to meetings and conferences and drawing people’s ideas in words and pictures – and now I’m shifting more to designing and facilitating those meetings, which feels more interesting to me now. I’ve had an on-and-off love affair with photography since my art school days, but it’s just in the past few years that I’ve taken myself seriously as a photographer. I bought a lovely Nikon Z6 with my tax return a couple of years ago and am delighting in all the things I can do with it – including cool multiple exposures that I find endlessly fascinating to create.

    I’ve been working my way slowly through your ImageWork course and am enjoying it greatly. (I’m very slow with self-paced courses – I do much better with in-person classes where I have to be accountable to someone besides myself!) When I eventually finish it, I’m looking forward to starting ImageStory, which I bought at the same time. And I also subscribe to A Beautiful Anarchy, which I listen to whenever I need a hit of inspiration. So even though we haven’t met, you’re part of my life!

    You’re on Vancouver Island, right? I pass through Nanaimo from time to time when I’m on my way to Hornby Island, where my partner has a cabin. If you’re anywhere near there, I’d love to buy you a coffee or a drink some time when I’m in the vicinity! In the meantime, I’ll just say thanks for all the great teaching and creative inspiration!

  11. Merci pour ce délicieux moment de lecture. Je possède trois de tes livres, dont “L’âme d’une image”, en français. Mais l’anglais technique un peu difficile pour moi. Chacun de tes messages ou videos sont un régal.
    Passionné, je ne sors jamais sans l’un de mes appareils photo, même si parfois je rentre à la maison sans en avoir fait une seule image !
    Merci pour tout ce que tu apportes.

  12. After following you for a number of years – yes, I feel like I know you. Your courageous intimacy – shines thru. Thank you.

    Me… I’m recently fully retired at age 71 – necessitated by the adoption of my grandkids.

    The clear upside of becoming a “Dad” again, I also had to shut down my darkroom of 40 years and switch to digital. As much as I loved being in the darkroom, my digital work has been really satisfying and productive! The learning curve was (is) steep. I’m amazed at the increase in productive, the wider range of images and projects, and the increase in prints, projects and work being seen.

    1. Author

      Nice to meet you, James! I’ve often thought of doing the opposite and building a darkroom again, but as much as I love the nostalgia, the red light, the buzz of the timer, and that image magically appearing, I don’t miss all the fuss and the mixing of chemicals, etc. There’s something comforting about the ease of digital, isn’t there?

  13. Hi David…had a fun time reading about your past. I’m still open to taking you to lunch when Vancouver Island opens up and I can grab the ferry in Port Angeles. I was never a comedian but I like to laugh. My first job was bagging groceries in a store in north Seattle. I started climbing while in high school. Went to UW out of high school, big mistake, and decided with my 1.7 gpa, I didn’t belong there. Since Viet Nam was going on I joined the Air Force and not the army. Out of the Air Force in 1969, started working at REI at the only store in the world in Seattle. I ended up managing it until I moved to Alaska in 1976. At REI I used to teach skiing at Alpental at Snoqualmie Pass and for a few years on my weekends off, taught climbing and guided people to the top of Mt. Rainier with Rainier Mountaineering. In Alaska I ended up in commercial real estate, my wife hired me – she is retired and I work 🙂 go figure, and work with national and international clients. From my REI days, I had met Joe Redington, the man that founded the Iditarod sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome. I was on the board of directors for a few years and I would help him at the start of the race and go to Nome and see him in. One day he said it’s time for you to run the race even though I’d never run a dog team. My wife and I picked out thirty (30) — 6 month old puppies and trained them for 2 years and then I took 15 of them to Nome in the 1990 race. 1,200 miles across Alaska. I had to sell my airplane to feed the dogs. I had a commercial pilots license I got through the GI bill after I got out of the Air Force. Photography came from hiking and climbing and I got more serious when I was in Alaska (and read your books and took some of your courses). As a side from REI days too, I was on the cover on National Geographic in June 1971. I’ll tell you about that one at lunch. Now I live in Sequim and commute to Alaska when my clients need me up there. Most of my work is on the phone and the computer. Hope to cut back on work and travel more. We like international travel and are going to do more that Covid is winding down (hopefully). More adventures to come…see you when Canada opens up..Jim Wood

    1. Author

      Wow, Jim. That’s quite a life (so far!) I look forward to getting a drink at some point and hearing more!

  14. David – Thank you for being such a great inspiration to me as well as to my college students with whom I shared many of your inspirational/fearlessness essays. Spot on applicable to any field of study.
    After 40+ years of making images in South Florida, my spouse and I moved to outside Richmond, VA in March 2021 to be close to our daughter’s family (inc. two grandchildren). No regrets whatsoever.
    Now I’m in the position of getting to photographically know a completely new bioregion and culture. I don’t want to make images that are Virginia versions of my South Florida landscapes and wildlife, but am eager to spread my wings a bit. Not sure how to go about doing that.
    I created a new gallery in my online portfolio – The Spirit of Virginia: Celebrating the Elements and am populating it with images a few a time.
    Feedback and suggestions from the community are always welcome.

    1. Author

      Hi Chris! I remember meeting you in Vancouver several years ago, when you still lived in FLA. Glad to hear the move to Virginia has opened some new adventures for you. Hope you’re well.

      1. You have a great memory, David. That week in Vancouver was a great opportunity to stretch myself – esp while shooting in Gastown and at English Beach. Gallery of pix at: https://chrismigliaccio.zenfolio.com/p71541225

        Now that I’m here in Richmond, I keep reminding myself to look for meaning rather than documentation in my images. It’s too easy to slip into making technically sound photos that lack Spirit but I’m practicing slowing down to take more time to make fewer photos. Thank for being such an encouraging teacher.

  15. I have that signed DVD on my shelf, so yes, yes I would listen to this man. These personal posts are the reason I subscribed 13 years ago and I support more of them.

    I’ll match your clown with Zeddy but I can’t ride a unicycle. It still sounds like we should have a one-wheel race anyway.

    1. Author

      Knowing that copy of the DVD is still out there haunts my dreams, Stephen. At some point you know it’ll be worth millions, right? That’s mostly because I’ll pay anything to get it back and out of circulation! (Millions of Rupees, perhaps?) Hope you’re well. This has dragged on long enough, let’s get back together in Brosha’s barn!

  16. Hi David, very brave of you to write this article and the photos are hilarious. Thanks for this invite.

    I was born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario and I remember when I was about 12 years old, I got a photo developing kit for Christmas, I think from my grandparents. It included some chemicals, paper, a tank and a contact print frame. I shot a roll of B&W film on an old Kodak Brownie, then developed it in our dark, cold, fruit cellar. This was magic!

    I was 14 when the Beatles hit Canada, and I learned guitar and eventually got into a band. With my circa 1966 Fender Telecaster, I even played at the In Crowd club in old Yorkville.

    Then, in grade 11, I joined the high school camera club. There were only 2 of us, and he became my best friend and photo buddy. Here’s a blog (https://www.dobrucki.ca/a-trip-down-memory-lane/) I recently posted about that wonderful time.

    Then I went on to college, got married, moved to Edmonton, Alberta, had 2 beautiful daughters, moved up to Tumbler Ridge, BC, moved back to Ontario and got divorced. Out of loneliness and maybe a little depression, I joined a ski club, became a certified ski instructor, and met my 2nd wife, also a ski instructor.
    We have travelled extensively, especially by bicycle, where I’ve documented religiously in my photo blog at http://www.dobrucki.ca.

    I 2007, I was laid off from my software developer job and decided to leave full-time work for good, but built up a part-time web development business. That’s finished too, now. But this is when I really got back into photography, and a few years ago, I bumped into something online about David Duchemin. I started following him, bought a few of his books, and eventually took his “Compelling Frame” course.

    And now, I just shoot, write blogs and make photo books. And last year, we bought a 2009 Roadtrek camper van, which we will use to explore, and of course, photograph, Canada.

  17. As always, a refreshingly honest and compelling post. Thanks for the blast from the past and the tidbits gleaned for interactive posts. 🙂

    Fun facts about me?

    I planted trees in Ontario and Alberta – when I was young and had better knees.
    I was in an episode of X-Files – Miracle Man – as an extra.
    My brain is half Spock and half Georgia O’Keefe.
    I wanted to be a fashion designer first.
    I travelled around Europe alone at age 18. (I don’t recommend it. Men can be jerks.)
    When I retire (or refocus) I want the time to learn Spanish, pick up the piano again, and become an abstract painter.

    If we are what we do most then I am a gardener and a worrier.

    Just finished Atomic Habits so I expect great things from the rest of the year.

    1. Author

      Thanks for that, Leni! An extra on the X-files (would that make you an X-tra?) – that’s really cool.

  18. Thanks David, for putting yourself out there once again.

    I really appreciate your passion, your heart and your ability to whet the appetite of your students for a deeper and more meaningful and creative journey.

    My priorities get shuffled around so much these days and I unfortunately do not get much (meaningful stuff) done but I still enjoy your newsletters, books and podcasts very much!

    May you come to know the peace of God through His Son, Jesus the Messiah. Take care and God bless you.

  19. Hello David. What a great post to read with my coffee on a Monday morning. Your books line my bookshelves, and in my first year of retirement, I have been rereading a number of them. After teaching HS photography for close to 25 years, it has been quite an adjustment to not be teaching but finding a personal path for my own photography. When I feel uninspired, I will pick up one of your books, and it doesn’t take long before I am grabbing my camera and head out the door. My husband and I live on 40 acres in northern Minnesota filled with wildlife, a view of Lake Superior, and lots of trees. It is a beautiful area, but I am struggling at times to create images that create that emotional pull in me. With the limited movement due to the pandemic, I have taken the same walk every single day ‘working the woods’ so to speak. I have been finishing your book “The Heart of the Photograph” and it has given me inspiration on trying to make photographs that express more….so thank you.

    Your visit to The American School in Switzerland as a guest lecturer in April 2012 still stands as a highlight to those students you met and to me. I look forward to all your emails and podcasts as a continued source of inspiration. Thank you!

    1. Author

      Hi Kim! I still think about that time in Switzerland. Wish it could have been longer, or that I could go back! I still have the Swiss Army Knife your students gave me that evening. Your current home sounds amazing – what a gift to have so much in your own back yard. Thanks for the kind words. Makes my day to know others are finding value in what I make. 🙂 Be well!

  20. Hey David
    Such an interesting life, and such passion for photography – love it!
    Just another theory for diabetes – just have only ONE carb meal a day.
    Check out: http://babyboomersandbellies.com
    Disclaimer, she is my partner’s sister.

  21. David, thanks for sharing. I write a lot about the minutia of my life for two reasons. One I think it is good to look back at the path regardless of how convoluted, even uncomfortable and controversial. Second, the examination and honest sharing of our lives was encouraged by the person I consider to be my greatest mentor in photography, Ralph Hattersley, Jr. He wrote and I fully believe that it is one of the greatest gifts we can give others, the sharing of our humanity, warts and all. I still count this year as my 72nd year as an amateur photographer even though in 86 I began a fifteen-year hiatus. On returning I discovered a tremendous void of inspiring photographic writers. Most all was technique based, rule based. Very disappointing. Your first book I purchased was Within the Frame. As hard as I might try I had great difficulty starting it. Being a Transcendentalist, I identify with Emerson’s “…if you cannot find art outside your own door, you will never find art.” (more paraphrase than quote) Outside my door looked nothing like your photographs, like the places you talked about. I had it probably a year before I really read it. In it I found what I consider the closest successor that I had found to Hattersley, Minor White, Lou Bernstein, Eli Seigel and others that had inspired me through my teens, twenties and thirties. Since, I have found a few others to join you, Bruce Barnbaum, Chris Orwig, Paul Hill, and others but your Photographically Speaking has pretty much become my photographic bible. I have purchased several copies to give to friends. So, to answer your question, yes, I am willing to learn/relearn photography—but mostly to be inspired about photography—from the person you described. Thanks for all you do.

    1. Author

      Gary, what very kind words – thank you! I wonder if you have discovered the writing of Guy Tal yet. Based on what you’ve said, I think you’d like him very much. Thank you for reading, and for being here. I’m a very fortunate man to have such wonderful readers and friends (if many of them I’ve still not met!).

  22. David,
    Thank you for this article and sharing some personal knowledge with us. I am a retired Mech Eng who has always been interested in Photography since I got my first box camera for Christmas during the 4th grade. In high school I bought my father’s Kodak Retina IIc which I still have. My first SLR was a Minolta ST101 back in 1975, I had never had any formal photography education and it is obvious now that I am digitizing my collection of slides. After I retired I took a Basic DSLR course at Rice University and have a somewhat better knowledge of the art but have a real problem artistic images. Currently I am using a Pentax K-3 for my efforts. I enjoy your articles and your books. Please keep us the good work.

  23. I’ve been following you for quite some time. I always appreciate your information and have purchased your books. Thank you for the content you create. There are people out here consuming and learning from it.

  24. Saw the picture. You have more courage than I do.

    Also, it was love at first sight for Gail and me, 45 years ago.

  25. Hi David,
    well, there were a few new things in here that I didn’t know. Very interesting. Very human. As we all are 🙂
    I am from Switzerland, so I really have no problem pronouncing Volkswagen. I even own one. Although the language we speak is not technically German, it’s Swiss German which is an Alemannic Dialect. Höchstalemannisch, um genau zu sein.
    So enough of languages.
    When I was in Kindergarten I wanted to be a dog. I was not well socialized, being an only kid, and had no clue how to interact with other kids. Actually, I mostly still haven’t. I make a lot of mistakes. Not a people person. An animal person. I own 10 cats, 2 dogs and currently 2 horses, there used to be 4 of them.
    I studied Geology at the University of Zürich, then went into IT because I couldn’t find a job. 15 years later in Banks and Insurances I was worn out – I hated it. And I discovered I had a knack for the Otherworld. I am a good astral traveler and a good medium. In Harry Potter Terms, I am a muggle born witch – which explains that I only figured out all the spiritual stuff when I was nearly 40.
    Because I was really talented and I wanted an out of the corporate world, I started a school for pet psychics and magick. Wizardschool, I called it. I did that for 7 years. I needed photos for my website, which is how I started photography.
    Being a pet psychic (and having seen hundreds of photos to connect with the animals) I thought I would do pet photography. Turns out that the muses had other plans for me. I learned that from Steven Pressfield. I still have no idea what exactly my “subject” is, but it has to do with Wabi-Sabi, with Architecture, with appreciating the little things, the things no one else notices. It calls to me, and I try to listen, as good as I can.
    Sometimes I still channel the things I write. Mostly, like right now. This is just flowing out of my fingers here.
    I’m somehow swimming in this water of creativity, of connection with the otherworld, of connection with the muses and the real self and I have no way to explain it, I can just experience it and try to ride those waves and see where they get me.
    Maybe I will never work for anyone again. I’m 51 and I don’t need to, because we have enough money. But I would love to bring something of me, of what the universe wants so bring into existence through me, well… bring into existence for the people it is designed for. As I have no clear understanding yet what it is and what sort of people it is for, as well as how to deliver it to them, I will just go on doing what I do. Experience the world and write about it and photograph it.
    You help me a lot with everything you teach.
    Thank you. Eilwen

    1. Hi David
      I just wanted to say thank you. Your words, your spirit is a generous one. Your emails inspire me photographically and I love your openness and willingness to share. Your book The Heart of the photograph is the first photography book I’ve ever bought. I’m part of Emma Davies Camera Club and I couldn’t believe my luck to discover you’re a guest speaker on Zoom this month. So I look forward to seeing you relatively “live” !

  26. Hi David,

    My names Katy and I live in England, I’ve been a photographer for 10 years now, although it’s a hobby I adore rather than to pay my bills – I’m an IT security consultant for that.

    Like you I’m also an avid reader, although I’m not too good at finishing the books I start. I also collect hobbies, I’m definitely one of life’s generalists and I love it! It was reading a beautiful anarchy for the first time that made me consider that following my many passions might be possible, now it’s a book I recommend to everyone whenever I get the chance! Thank you so much for putting it into the world!

    I grew up near the Lake District which, for me, is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. In secondary school I replaced a more academic subject with ‘outdoor education’ which meant i got to spend one day a week hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, skiing, climbing or similar. As an adult I forgot how much I loved it, but lockdown and a yet of reflection reignited that passion. While I will always wish Covid didn’t happen, I am grateful for the reawakening to what matters to me!

    You actually wrote me a card after I bought pilgrims and nomads and seven near the start of the pandemic. I should say thank you for that, I appreciated it! I did consider writing back, but I wasn’t sure if that was a bit weird! But I just wanted to say it did arrive and brightened my week considerably at the time.

    Thank you so much for the podcast, it’s been a gift throughout this pandemic! I am hoping, one day when this is all over, I’ll be able to sign up to one of your workshops if they happen again 🙂 stories and a glass of wine would definitely be most welcome!


  27. Hiya,
    Born and bred in Perth (the colder Scottish version) now in Glasgow and have been trying to be a reasonable photographer for a wee while, going back to it after 20years or so having been put off by a tired old lecturer and a few mental health issues. Eventually, back on my feet, I started again and found my way back to a life and a camera and now find myself in the early stages of a clinical photography career which is as intimidating as it is exciting. I discovered your work and much appreciated openness through the podcast; it must be interesting to see how your words reach and are interpreted by a variety of strangers like me. For what it’s worth, your outlook and words have been very helpful to me in working towards qualification – photography can be an intimidating field, your down to earth words have been a recurrent anchor in my learning. Like you, I read as often as possible and have read all of Haruki Murakami’s books. Apart from that, I’m happily married to Susan, we have a couple of rescue cats, Barry and Lionel, who make up our immediate little family and we like to go walking through the Scottish landscapes we are lucky to be part of. What else… I have a few tattoos including washing instructions for no other reason than why not – I am clean by my own doing not because I need the reminder! I love music of different types and going to gigs, probably because I used to go to sleep to the sounds of my mums record collection (mainly 60’s like the Hollies, Everly Brothers) – a fine teacher she was. My favourite is Nirvana.

    Otherwise, I’m in a good place and I hope you are too.

    Thanks again.

  28. I like the idea of getting to know your audience and me knowing a bit more about you.I have been reading your thoughts (or at least the written ones, so do not worry) for about as long as you have sent them out into the world. I do not read or follow almost anyone else, mainly because unlike most others who write about photography you have no problem emphasizing the struggle and, very importantly: gear and technique are the mechanics, ART and the MUSE live elsewhere and are elusive

    I am a 67 year old retired veterinarian living now in the Okanagan, practised for 34 years in the Peace River District of BC.
    Photography was a stress reliever while in practice, became a Zen like practice for me in that it allowed me to calm my mind and be in the moment. I am also a very strong introvert (one of those weird introverts who can be socially involved and friendly at parties, then needs to hide and recover) , the alone time was a necessity. In my limited way I try to produce ART. Whether or not I succeed is neither here nor there. The journey is the important part. It is like I say (or used to say to my wife, some comments do not suffer long repetition) when asked where I am going when I go for a three to four hour walk ” I am going to the kitchen/couch/bathroom, just taking the long route”

    1. Author

      Trevor! I have a letter in my inbox from you, I’ll get to it, I promise! You wrote: “one of those weird introverts who can be socially involved and friendly at parties, then needs to hide and recover” – yes! That’s me. People are under the mistaken impression that I’m an extrovert when really I just play one on TV. I get peopled-out really quickly and find I need about 8 hours of down-time for every hour I spend with others. With Covid I worry I’m turning full-hermit. Maybe that’s why I like the camera so much – it’s a companion of sorts but it’s quiet. I found when I started SCUBA that this was one of the things I liked best, that no one could talk to me and the sound of the bubbles was really meditative. Thanks for chiming in. Best to you!

  29. Hi David!

    I’ve never commented on your blog, replied to an email from you, or otherwise interacted with you. But you have been an important part of my photography journey. I was introduced to you through one of those 5-day bundles (I think your piece was The Vision Collective, or something like that. There were white wolves featured in it.). I was captivated by your artistry and your ability to put the creative process into actionable words. I’ve been on many email lists over the years, but yours is one I still look forward to and read every word of. And I was delighted to receive “The Soul of the Camera” for Christmas last year. I regret that I haven’t thanked you sooner, but better late than never, I suppose.

    As for me, I became interested in photography in 2015 when I saw a teaser for Shultz Photo School promising to help you take better pictures of your kids. I signed up and fell hard for the craft. Lifestyle and landscape are my jam.

    I was on furlough much of the past year, and near the end I was inches away from launching a lifestyle photography business. I got a business license and put up a website (www.alyssatrumanphotography.com)—even signed up for Instagram. As I was putting on the finishing touches, I received the call to come back to work and, well, steady income and health insurance won out and the website is still unmarketed and my Instagram completely empty. I’m really hoping to find the balance I need with my day job and family responsibilities to launch it, but right now it seems like a pipe dream.

    In other news about me, I am on a quest with my husband to take our kids to every national park in the US before they leave the house (23 down!). You can follow along at http://www.partoftheadventure.net (I’m about two years behind updating it, though). I’ve been SCUBA diving with sea turtles and white-tip reef sharks. There is nothing like waiting patiently for a wild cheetah to take off into a herd of springbok in Etosha, or feeding day-old bread to kangaroos in Merimbula, or getting stuck in an intense rainstorm off the coast of Koh Samui, or arriving at a bus depot in Edinburgh with three days and nary a plan. I recently rekindled my love of playing classical piano. Reading fuels my soul, but I rarely make as much time for it as I want to. I am fascinated by biblical studies and theology.

    Thanks for putting yourself out there into the world. You are an inspiration to many, even if they never actually reach out and say so.

    1. My husband and I are also visiting all the National Parks – we’re up to 301! 🙂

      1. That’s awesome, Celeste! You must be visiting all the national park units – that’s on our long-term plan, but we’re just doing the (currently) 63 national parks before the kids graduate. Our oldest is entering 6th grade in the fall, so we still have a few years to go, but it’s a moving target (there were only 59 when we started). Safe travels to you and your husband!

    2. Author

      Wow, Alyssa – Sounds like we share a lot in common. You’ve been on more than your own fair share of adventures! I love the idea of taking your kids to the national parks. MY best memories as a kid were camping with my parents, and the lessons learned in those adventures set me up for a lifetime of loving nature, knowing how to make my way in the world, and I can still perform a quick and efficient canoe rescue (you know, in case you’re foolish enough to go canoeing with me) LOL. Best to you!

  30. I’ve often said that every photograph I (we) make has a bit of self-portrait in it – in some way, a little, a lot, who we are (and how we got that way) comes through. Put 5 of us in a room with the same subject, and you’ll get 5 quite different views once the images are made. Or we should.

    Your story made me smile out loud, though you left out the ‘great teacher’ and ‘compassionate human being’ parts. Since you asked so nicely, here’s the short version of me – though I’ll skip the wine, thanks, I’m allergic.

    I taught myself how to use a camera, back in film days, all-metal, all-manual Minolta SRT101s (Minolta, because Nikon and Canon were too big for my hands). I tried shooting ‘traditional’ art subjects, like sunsets, still life, flowers and crap like that – no offense to those who do it well, it’s a skill I don’t have. Didn’t relate.

    I like people. I like communicating with them through the lens, even if we don’t speak the same language. I like talking to them about what they do (or observing), finding out what makes them who they are. And for me, time spent watching and listening are a couple of the most important parts of photography.

    Initially trained as a costume designer, I found I couldn’t pay the rent with my theatre work, so I got into the real world: I served time on jobs in health care admin, law, copywriter/editor in marketing & comm, night-shift data entry. I’ve exhibited multi-media artwork in galleries across the US. I’ve been a special-interest lecturer on cruise ships because, y’know, give me a lavalier mic and an audience of any size, and I’m a happy camper.

    Maybe I’m just a late bloomer, or needed time to overcome various illnesses and whatnot. At age 42, I started a documentary photo project on spec with my home town’s opera company; two years later, I turned all that into my first book. 10 years later I researched, wrote and self-published a book about photographers in the early days of the internet.

    At age 61, I relocated from the US to South America – not running away, but moving toward something (and somewhere) new in my life when I had the opportunity.

    Age 65, pre-pandemic, I cashed in a zillion frequent-flyer miles and spent 5 months traveling solo in south east Asia, China, Japan, Australia and points between – I’d been away from the cameras for a long time, and wanted to get back to it in a serious way. (I did, though the ramping-up took a bit of time.)

    Did two 10-day photo workshops (worth every penny!), a couple of shorter ones, several half-day specialty ones. Stretched my skills into night photography, street, architecture – and reveled in the people I met. Still paying off the credit cards for those courses plus 4 cooking classes and shipping costs back home for the books and art I bought.

    Need to write up all those stories… started to write one up here, about observing and judging and also about cameras, but it needs more space. Really have to bring my blog up to speed.

    Regrets? zero, unless I could have another 20 or 30 years with decent energy and fully functioning brain!

    Great question and background, David… looking forward to others’ stories.


  31. Hi David,
    I’ll make this a quick summary introduction in response to yours:
    1. I too am a Type 1 diabetic diagnosed at the age of 17…which was…OMG…50 years ago! The only thing I despise more then multiple injections daily is those damned finger-pricks for blood testing!
    2. My mother was from Nova Scotia and she married my dad who was in the US Air Force. They’re both gone now but with me every day.
    3. I grew up in the Far East and the Middle East following my dad around military assignments. On average, until going into college, I moved about every 18 months!
    4. I drove school art teachers absolutely bonkers as I couldn’t even draw a straight line with a ruler…and felt there wasn’t a creative bone or Muse within 100 miles of me. Until, that is, until I fell in love with Photography after retiring from corporate life.
    5. I’m retired and living in Japan with a wonderful Japanese lady who supports my going out to shoot almost daily. What she likes most is my Macro shooting and what she struggles a bit to understand is my Black and White photography fascination.

    Stay Strong, Stay Stay Safe, Stay Healthy Compadre🙏🙏‼️

    1. Thank you, David, for sharing some intimate details of your life. We all have stories. I, too, love to read. Latest: “Other Worlds Peasants, Pilgrims, Spirits, Saints” by Teffi (Russian) and “Strongmen Mussolini to the Present” by Ruth Ben-Ghiat. I spent 30 years training and competing my horses in dressage. The last horse was the love of my life. My husband always says he wants to return as my horse. During COVID we transformed one part of the garage into my photo studio (lots of flowers, food and still life) and a pottery studio with new wheel on the other end. Took a third bedroom and made it into my sewing room; purchased a lovely sewing table which Dave spent 6 hours assembling. (He’s my favorite handyman – or man servant!) I bike – alot – swim laps – alot – and am a member of an Orange Theory Studio. I like to exercise – alot. Today I am going to attend my 4th ballet workshop – besides flowers and gardens, my most favorite type of photography. Thank you, David, for your thoughts, motivation and wisdom. I look forward to more insights………….

      1. Author

        Thanks for sharing that Stephanie. Gosh, what a diverse group of fascintating people hang out here. I took a ceramics calls in high-school and loved it. I’ve often thought how much I’d love to sit down at the wheel again. I can’t imagine the gear needed initially, though! I thought photography was expensive! A wheel, a kiln, all the tools. I’m not sure me being in control of a kiln is a good idea… 🙂 Thanks for being here!

    2. Author

      David, I’m with you on the finger-pricks! I keep hoping Apple will make good on the speculation that a glucometer is going to be added to the Apple Watch – sure would make life easier! I’ve looked into a CGM but, wow, talk about expensive. Sounds like you’ve been on a life-long adventure and still going. Good for you!

  32. Thank you for your openness and willingness to share, David. That is what makes your teaching so valuable.

    I DO feel like I know you, and I know a couple of your fellow photographer friends, and my dream dinner would have all of you over for a glass of wine (well, we all know it would be more than one…) and a game of Cards Against Humanity.

    I don’t eat eggs unless they are baked into something decadent. My student job at university was maintaining a colony of mosquitoes. I’ve completed 7 ultra marathons. I pick books sometimes based only on their length – I love long reads. I still build with Lego.

    1. Author

      That game of Cards Against Humanity sounds great, Celeste. As long as it comes with the glass (bottle?) of wine! Mosquitoes & Marathons – that could be the title of your auto-biography. 🙂 I love finding out things like that. As for long reads, last year I decided to read James Clavell’s Asian Saga – 6 books that averaged 1200 pages each. It kept me busy for a couple months. 🙂

  33. David, thanks so much for the newsletters, videos and everything so inspiring that you shared with us on weekly basis. I remember that I bought a book that you suggested long time ago called ‘Art & Fear’. I bought it from Strands in NYC once that I visited the city and it was in a shelf of rare and old books. I enjoyed it from the very first word and after that moment I started to follow all your awesome work.

    I’m Ivan from Argentina, aka igsocialcamera on Instagram, MBA and IT engineer but in my spare time I really like to learn new stuff related to photography. I started with photography 10 years ago because I used to love those gorgeous portrait with bokeh effect that I saw on magazines. I took a course of 3 months to learn the basics and then I started to try by my own and play with a point & shoot camera. Then, I bought a Canon 60D, which is the one that I’m still using nowadays, and I was able to add my own signature to the images with specific settings that I set up. I know that it doesn’t matter what gear I own but I really love that camera hehe.

    As soon as I got more into photography, I realized that portrait was not my favourite type of snapshots (I really suck IMHO) and I moved to landscapes and street photography. So every time that I travel to some place abroad I bring the camera with me.

    I’m still caution about taking pictures in the streets of Buenos Aires because it’s a little bit dangeours and I know (sadly) that I’m missing lot of things of the city that I can capture. It’s something that I need to do sooner or later to show you all my city… we will see 🙂

    Feel free to visit my website and my IG profile (@igsocialcamera) for more about my work.

    Cheers from Buenos Aires!

    1. Cheers from Chile! When I lived in Uruguay, I found it wasn’t for me, but I often took the Buquebus over to Bs.As. for a weekend of soaking up the gorgeous high-energy city (safely, not on my own) and going to the opera.
      I took a random little vacation to Chile and instantly fell in love with it – moved here almost 4 years ago. Haven’t yet explored this long stringbean-shaped country with my camera, but I will …

      We are opposite in what we like to shoot – isn’t it funny how everyone relates to what’s in front of us!
      But we’re the same in loving ART & FEAR – amazing book, has helped so many creative people.

      ¡Que tengas un buen día!

    2. Author

      Good morning, Ivan! I felt intimidated in Buenos Aires as well, but there’s so much to see in Argentina! One of my first trips once the pandemic is over is going to be Mendoza. I’ve a good friend there. And if I’m going to do that, perhaps Patagonia again and a quick trip to Antarctica…I’m glad you’ve enjoyed Art & Fear – it’s a wonderful book. Best to you!

      1. Thanks for your reply, David!!! Please keep in touch if you visit Argentina and I’m more than open to help you with the arrangements here so you can visit places in this country. Cheers and waves from Buenos Aires!

  34. Hi David, like you I’m Canadian, but unlike you, I wasn’t born from Military parents but I was myself a pilot flying C-130s in the Canadian Air Force from 1984 to 1995. I spent a lot of time in Lahr as well. Loved it.

    I first learned photography in High School in 1976 and I had my own darkroom in those early years. So I’ve been doing photography on and off for the last 45 years. Unfortunately, during my Air Force days, I did very little photography as we were not allowed to bring cameras on flights without special permission.

    I then became an IT consultant and moved west (Seattle) and with no access to a darkroom I kind of lost interest in photography. Being a computer guy, Digital photography rekindled my interest in photography around 1997 and I went on this long constant equipment upgrade as things were improving so fast. 1.3 Mpix, 2.1 Mpix, 3.2 Mpix and 5 Mpix in the space of about 3 years. Then I got a 6MPix Nikon D70 DSLR quickly followed by a super-noisy Nikon D200 with 10.2 Mpix.

    Then in 2008 I went full-frame with the stunning Nikon D700 12.1 Mpix camera and the trio of f/2.8 pro zooms. I stayed with this kit for a surprising 8 years but then I was getting old and this big and heavy kit tended to stay home more often than not, in favour of a point & shoot Lumix LX-5.

    In 2016 I switched to a used Olympus E-M1 with a set of tiny fast primes and really started to enjoy photography again. I later fell in love with street photography and added a rangefinder-style Lumix GX-85 with a Leica 15mm f/1.7 for that very purpose.

    I currently live in Medellin, Colombia (met a wonderful Colombian woman in 2013 who became my wife in 2018) and do mostly street and urban landscape photography. I have read and enjoyed 5 or 6 of your books as I try to bring my photography from good to art.

    Thanks a lot for all your creative inspiration.

    1. Author

      What a great story, Sylvain. And another Lahr connection. I got an email from a reader yesterday saying they’d lived in Lahr as well. I hope your new life in Columbia is treating you well.

  35. Cool early career photos, that jacket puts you in the same league as Don Cherry… I’d even happily learn photography from anyone refused entry into the USA (pre-COVID), or someone with no fixed address… Great getting to know you better. p.s. I fell in love with Cynthia immediately too, but she was already taken and my wife did not approve anyway…

    1. Author

      LOL. Thanks for that, Dave. I sure do miss that jacket…. 🙂

  36. I just wanted to say thank you for all the books, lessons, advice and inspiration. I have definitely learned a lot about photography (and life) from “that guy”. And thank you for putting yourself out there in such a personal way…very courageous in my opinion.

    1. Awesome personal article. Some things I never knew that maybe you regret sharing now. Lol. I’ll share one tidbit.

      Even with my hearing loss, I took piano lessons even though no one would teach me until my mom finally found someone for me. Why? Because I was hearing impaired and, be be honest, once past the the 4 notes below and above middle C, my hearing went downhill fast.

      But I persevered and ended up in my late 20s and early 30s playing as a keyboardist in a couple bands to make the long story short that’s already kinda long. While I miss those days and playing, I finally sold my keyboard as I wasn’t using it to purchase a lens for my first camera. Someday I’ll pick up another one. Maybe I’ll even rock out with others again!

      1. Author

        Good to hear from you, Stephen. Amazing to read your story. I’ve often marveled at stories of deaf musicians and blind photographers. That’s a perseverance I’m not sure I have. Hope you’re well, my friend.

    2. Author

      Thank you, Scott! It’s easy to put myself out there when those who read my words are such wonderful people. 🙂

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