My Experience In Trey Ratcliff’s The Arcanum - Levels 1 & 2

Wasim Muklashy Photography_NX3000_16-50_081614_Santa Paula_CA-SAM_0225_1800

So if you haven’t heard of it yet, you need to hear of it before yet. Like now. Right now. It’s the future of learning and education, it’s based on the master/apprentice model, it was created by Trey Ratcliff, and it's called The Arcanum.

The idea is simple…a master chooses an apprentice, and the apprentice learns the craft. The craft in this case is photography. The execution…is seemingly brilliant. Using today’s technologies - everything from real time screen sharing and VR on-location sharing - mixed with a structured and tiered leveling system, and you have yourself what could be a glimpse into the future of education.

Here's a quick video that's worth watching to give you a primer of what it's all about:

I submitted my application when I first heard about it late last year, and once beta ended I actually heard from a master, Ollie Dale, who was interested in my application and asked me to be an apprentice. While I was insanely humbled, I had just been involved in an automobile accident and my finances weren’t exactly in order, so what I was waiting for for 6 months, I had to turn down. Luckily, soon after the accident madness died down, I was asked by another master, Robin Griggs Wood. And if you don’t know Robin yet, GO check her out. Her work is incredibly inspiring and surreal. I could NOT find it in myself to turn down the rare opportunity twice, so I freed up the room on the ol’ Visa, and boom! Here I am. A registered and active student apprentice to a bonafied master photographer and artist!

Our first assignment in Level 1 is to provide 5 images to be critiqued, along with a description of ourselves and our goals for those images and what we’d like to get out of all of this. This one was easy, but served as an introduction to the private group, my cohort, of fellow apprentices under Robin. We see each others work, get get to know each other a bit, and we share our journey with each other.

I think the greatest thing about this model is the sense of accountability. After I submitted my Level 1, and was ‘leveled up’ by my master, I saw the stream of work people were submitting on a regular basis and, well, it got a bit intimidating. I kind of froze for about a week or so wondering if I was in way over my head, but then as I dug deeper, I realized that everything that was happening was all extremely encouraging. People weren’t judging anyone or anything, they were helping each other out. That’s when I actually started to feel ‘bad’ about not completing my assignments and interacting with the group - not because of guilt, but because, well, you realize you’re going to get out of this what you put into it, and if you put nothing into it…well…you get nothing out of it. And I wasn’t here to get nothing out of it.

A 135 year old moreton bay fig tree.
A 135 year old moreton bay fig tree.

So I finally manned up and got crackalackin’ on my Level 2. The assignment there was to peruse the Grand Library of inspiring and educational videos available to the members of The Arcanum, find one that spoke to me, and apply the technique. Since I was in a bit of a rut, the one I found and that spoke to me was Rick Sammon's "Top Ten Techniques To Get Inspired". So I took a few of those techniques, got out of my little comfort zone, and headed out to a town I've never been to that's relatively close by, Santa Paula, California, the "Citrus Capital of the World.” The gallery of images you see in this post are from that excursion, all taken with a Samsung NX3000.

Anyhow, if you want to join me and see how this thing goes, enter your email and subscribe to my updates right there in the right column. I’ll provide regular updates of my experience in The Arcanum here as I continue on and get deeper into it.

And if you haven’t yet, check it out at, see what it’s all about, and if you’re feelin’ it, fill out and application, wait, and see what happens. You never know what synapses might start firing and what doors may open up. Perhaps I’ll see you in my cohort…

To read about my experience in Level 3, click here.

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