Almost nine months to the day after Laurie Rubin invited me to join her Nature and Wildlife Cohort in The Arcanum, I graduated from the Foundation Levels and Sphere 1. I’ve now joined an élite group of Arcanum apprentices who have achieved Sphere 2 and Level 20, and I’m looking forward to the Arcanum’s next great adventure in photography.
The Arcanum’s structure includes Foundation Levels from 1-9 and then Sphere 1, which includes levels 10-19. For these levels an apprentice remains in her original cohort, with the same Master guiding her along the path and providing valuable feedback and critiques along the way.
Like any graduation I’ve experienced so far in my education, it was a bittersweet and exciting experience simultaneously. I was a bit nervous for my final critique with Laurie but also eager to hear what she thought of my recent work, which focused on black-and-white imagery.
After spending these past nine months with Laurie and two apprentices, Mandy and Jayne, who have also recently graduated, moving on feels almost like losing good friends. I’ve enjoyed getting to know Mandy (from Australia) and Jayne (from New York City) and their work, and I’m grateful to them for spending so much time offering suggestions along the way to improve my images. I’m sure we’ll cross paths frequently, and, in fact, Laurie and I have made plans to meet at Yellowstone later this year for a photography workshop, but it won’t quite be the same.
That’s what graduations are all about, though. You learn and grow, taking incremental steps to achieve new levels of proficiency, before it’s necessary to move on and learn from someone else with a different skill set and point of view.
In looking back over my Arcanum experience so far, I’ve been inspired to photograph new subjects, expand my creative vision through the lens and, perhaps most importantly, my post-processing skills have improved dramatically. I’m no longer focused on just one narrow set of tools and editing software, and I feel more confident to take an image and move beyond my earlier self-imposed limits. The photograph I make in the camera is now a jumping off point.
While an image might end up just as it was taken with only minor edits—and in my professional career that situation remains most important—but now in my personal work I feel liberated to let go and create art. That was a huge step for me.
Those of us who have achieved Level 20 in The Arcanum will soon be chosen by a new Master to continue our educational journey in photography. I’m not sure where the next Master will lead me, but after spending this time in The Arcanum, I’m confident it will be a fun and educational trip with a few surprises!