Find a mentor. This is yet another valuable suggestion from Ted Orland's "The View From the Studio Door." I've been fortunate to have many sources of encouragement, inspiration and support over the years but finding a mentor has been particularly helpful.

Since I take lots of pictures and half-baked ideas frequently pop into my head, it was essential to find a mentor that could help me focus, edit and consolidate my work. It was also important that they be local because I wanted to meet regularly to look at prints (rather than e-mail and Skype).

Nick Johnson, a remarkable photographer, educator and gallery owner, became my mentor a year ago. Our best sessions start with a fuzzy question or a mishmash of proof prints and progress to something resembling a coherent plan for new work.


Untitled photo

This week's photo is one of a series that emerged while shuffling around a bunch of prints on Nick's huge framing tables and sharing thoughts on various selections and groupings that visually "clicked." Once again, Nick's skills as advisor and sounding-board nudged my work a step forward.

One of our favorite arrangements was this 12-image collage from my "Sandlines" series, which I've subsequently applied to the "Waterlines" and "Bark" series. I especially like how the collage allows the viewer to see how all the images are both similar and different at the same time without flipping back and forth through a web site or book.

It's possible I could have come up with this adaptation on my own but it seems unlikely. Not everyone needs a mentor and not all the time. When I first started, reading and workshops were most helpful just to learn my craft. Maybe in a few years I'll need a different mentor or none at all but for now, bouncing ideas off someone with decades of experience definitely works for me.

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