Peter Guttman is an award-winning author, photographer, lecturer and adventurer who was honored this year with the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Exploration and Storytelling. He is also a three-time winner of the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year Award, and was cited as one of “Twenty of the World’s Most Influential Photographers” when he was presented with the Power of the Image Award by Kodak Alaris and the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China.
In an age of digital and Insta-images, Guttman still primarily shoots film, determined to exploit the subtle hues and sculptural depth of film’s canvas of light. On the sad day that Kodachrome was discontinued, Kodak presented Guttman internationally as one of three great masters of the film medium. As a true artist, he spent a large amount of time before posting his first image on Instagram, trying to imagine how to visually utilize Instagram’s format in a compelling and distinctive fashion.
He has since worked diligently to create a singular vision that adds a truly enriching perspective and dimension to the Instagram genre.
In celebration of World Photo Day, Your Art Gallery caught up with Peter to ask him about his unique Instagram feed, why he loves Your Art Gallery, and what he’s up to lately.
How long have you been on Instagram? What persuaded you to join?
Relatively speaking, I’m still an infant on Instagram, having only begun four months ago. Feeling like this might be a fresh, new chapter in my career of storytelling and creating images, the first three images were posted on my birthday, which, fittingly, is Earth Day.
I had always envisioned my Instagram page as representing a collage-like encyclopedia of our planet’s beauty, I suppose a social media crystallization of my number one best-selling iPad travel app, Beautiful Planet HD.
For years, many of my friends and loved ones were urging me to join, though I hadn’t been a huge fan of social media. I feel like I’ve actually been one of the original pioneers of authentic social media, conducting three decades of eyeball to eyeball travel blogging in the form of my annual photography slide shows shuffling my Indiana Jones-style travels with local, around-the-corner neighborhood surprises. All this presented with music and sound effects and shown to many hundreds of people stuffed into our home a handful of times a season, and profiled on television, NPR, and on a few different occasions in the New York Times.
Finally, the social media floodgates on my digital dam broke, and I felt galvanized to inspire and educate others about the earth’s fragile beauty and overwhelming kaleidoscopic complexity.
You have a very specific strategy for your storytelling on Instagram. Can you tell us about it?
I really wanted to avoid creating a pictorial diary that would telegraph my latest meal or outing with friends. So I spent a good deal of time trying to envision a manner in which I could transform the Instagram page into one smooth never-ending film strip of continuous visual storytelling.
Employing Instagram’s layout of three image rows, I only post three images at a time, comprising carefully integrated rows of graphically striking, thematically coordinated triptychs, each row symmetrically balanced and employing deliberate color schemes. In turn, each row will subtly morph in subject matter, always somehow slightly connected to the previous row. The desired effect is to create an intriguing, slowly unraveling story of our planet’s diversity of vanishing cultures, villages, architecture, religions, landscapes, wildlife, escapes and adventures, which will cover over 220 countries and all seven continents.
Your son, Chase, is an Instagram maven. Does he offer you his advice?
I’m very proud of the fact that Chase, who numerous times won the juried Young Travel Photographer of the Year Award, was named a Rising Star on Instagram, and quickly attained almost 50,000 followers.
As he shoots using digital and drones, while I primarily still shoot film, we have a respectful acknowledgement of each other’s work and achievements. Chase understands my stubborn individuality, and doesn’t offer too much advice regarding Instagram. I’m also not certain how transferable his tips would be to my specific endeavors.
What role do you think social media will play in the next generation of photographers?
That’s one of my great fascinations. Certainly, due to the newfound social media imperative to chronicle and parade each and every moment through smartphone snapshots, there is now an incredible democratization of photographic effort and image awareness. This upwelling of visual overloading permeates our society and seems to propel creative individuals to keep pushing boundaries to make their own art more distinctive. It’s very exciting from an aesthetic point of view, but somehow it becomes a bit disturbing for a travel journalist to witness so many special, hidden gems being swarmed in the rush to personally accumulate likes and promote shares.
I’m not entirely certain why it took an online competition for followers to generate a passion for exploring the world and living life more fully, but in the end, it’s probably a wonderful thing that so many more lives are being enriched, both personally and vicariously.
You’re also active on Your Art Gallery. What do you like about this emerging channel?
I was very honored to be named their Featured Artist. Your Art Gallery affords a fabulous opportunity for photographers and artists to improve their visibility, provide exposure to their work, receive feedback and create a community of creative minds. It allows an easy way to circumvent traditional gallery models and offers very generous terms for the artist, while providing reasonable prices for buyers.
How do you manage to stick to your film roots while adapting to the latest trends?
In an oversaturated world of iPhones and Insta-images, I’m still primarily shooting film, determined to exploit the delicate colors and innate sculptural richness engraved on an actual canvas of light. Despite the added cost, it’s an easy call for me to pursue this particular medium of art, much like a charcoal artist who may not want to switch to pencil, or a crayon artist who wishes to avoid paint.
I’m fine with using digital media for my apps or Instagram efforts, as I believe that introducing my art and inspiring others on a mass scale about exotic cultures, endangered wildlife, and fragile landscapes is a very worthwhile mission.
You’re always going somewhere and working on something. What have you been up to lately?
I’ve recently returned from investigating the mountainous fairytale villages of Bavaria, the dramatic oceanic landscapes of Madeira, oystering adventures in the Chesapeake Bay, and will soon be journeying on a covered wagon adventure near Mills, Wyoming to view a total eclipse of the sun. Laos and Tibet are in the on-deck circle. I’m currently in discussions about creating a third book series and working on my ninth book. In the meantime, I’m also involved in the preparation of two separate upcoming solo photography exhibitions and continue to explore possible television projects.
What’s the best way for people to keep up on your work?
Certainly, follow me on Instagram and connect with me here on Your Art Gallery, explore my website or shoot me an email for a slide show invitation. My eight hardcover books are available on Amazon, or wherever fine books are sold.