After 40 years as a photographer, educator, collector, and developer, Michael Rubin discovered that the idiosyncratic principles that guided his own photography had been articulated before, not in photo courses but in the teachings of the zen arts.
Rubin rejects traditional methods of thinking about photography and teaching composition. Instead, he draws on aesthetic principles from haiku (poetry), ikebana (flower arranging), enso (calligraphy), kintsugi (ceramic repair), origami (paper folding), and bonsai (miniature trees). With these arts as our foundation, we create beautiful, creative, and interesting images that stand alone—more or less the way that modernists approached picture-taking in the 20th century.
There’s an uncanny space in contemporary photography that falls between two extremes. On one side is the fine-art photographic exploration of ideas, perhaps with an eye toward being collected, and on the other is the amateur mindset of snapping lovely photos that people like. This workshop occupies the space in between.
We are not using photography to explore zen. We do just the opposite, discovering how the ideas inherent in the zen arts can help us make better photos and enjoy photography more. Whether novice or expert, using an iPhone or a DSLR, you are invited to take this new approach for growing your photographic skills and vision.
M. H. Rubin has been a photographer and collector for more than 40 years, newly relocated to Santa Fe after decades in the Bay Area. As a young protégé of Jerry Uelsmann, he began by creating images that were both composed and surreal. Today Rubin embraces the passion of the amateur and evangelizes photographic exploration for consumers. He manages a large photo collection of classical 20th-century works, always incorporated into his workshops, and has spent the past years developing this new curriculum in photographic education. His book The Photograph as Haiku was released in 2023.
Concurrent with photography, he has had an entrepreneurial career that has spanned industries such as publishing, consumer retail, entertainment media, and technology. Career highlights include Lucasfilm, Netflix, and Adobe. He has had editing and post-production roles on numerous television and movie projects, including the miniseries “Lonesome Dove,” and the Bertolucci feature “The Sheltering Sky.”
Rubin has a degree in neuroscience from Brown University. He is a colorful storyteller and entertaining educator, the author of hundreds of essays, and a dozen books primarily on filmmaking—including a history of Lucasfilm and Pixar, Droidmaker: George Lucas and the Digital Revolution.