The Arcanum: An Online ‘Hogwarts’ Where You Can Learn One-on-One from the Pros

In the past, before resumes, interviews and portfolios, there was the master/apprentice relationship. If you wanted to learn a trade, craft or skill, you sought out a master of that skill and humbly asked for their tutelage.

That system has all but disappeared where most professions are concerned, but photographer Trey Ratcliff wants to bring it back into the world of the arts, and he’s doing it through a newly-formed online “Magical Academy for the Mastery of the Arts” that he’s calling “The Arcanum.”

You can get a brief intro to what The Arcanum is all about by watching the video at the top and, if you’re like us, you’ll get pretty excited at the potential here. The benefits of mentoring are nothing new, and yet, in the digital, the desire to learn a new skill or improve on an existing one usually leads us to online tutorials that can’t possibly be tailored to your individual artistic path.


The Arcanum blends the old and the new by using the miracle of modern technology to connect Masters with multiple eager Apprentices online. In this way, beginners are offered one-on-one mentorship as they ‘level up’ until they ultimately prove themselves worthy of taking on their own “Mastery Cohort” of apprentices.

As the website puts it:

Imagine a type of Hogwarts, online in Augmented Reality, where you always have a connection to your Master and your fellow Apprentices. Get your head around that, and you’ll see where this is going…

Whether you’re a beginner who is excited at the prospect of being hand-picked by one of The Arcanum’s masters to grow your skills under their watchful eye, or a professional who would like to join the likes of Thomas Hawk, Gordon Laing, Karen Hutton, Jeremy Cowart, Frederick Van Johnson and many more as a Master in the program, The Arcanum is definitely worth checking out.

To learn more, get your name on the waiting list to become an apprentice or apply to be one of the Masters, head over to The Arcanum website by clicking here. There’s no cost to get on the wait list for an invitation from a Master, but once you’re selected, tuition (special introductory price) will run you $30 per month.

  • Overit

    I think you miss the point beautox.. this is for everyone.. and as you develop over time you progress.. you choose your path.. those more developed creatively wise will progress alot faster than others!!.. and if you dont like it.. you dont have to hang about!!.. its not trying to be anything more.. we are all different and have lots to offer as humans.. Mentors/Masters call them what you will.. either way it will be the best $30 you’ll spend on your photography career!!..

  • GB

    I agree. Instead of seeing the value in an idea like this, people are getting hung up on semantics. Who cares if it’s called “tuition”? If you’re looking for a piece of paper to show a potential employer or an extra paragraph to add to your resume, it’s going to cost you more than $30 a month. An employer who cares more about a certificate or a degree than they do about your portfolio is not worth working for.

  • Neno

    I can see than nobody wants to talk about the pink elephant here. So I will have to ask! Who is this idiot beautox and why is everybody even bother to answer any of his posts. The guy has no imagination, the art is not for people like this. Great job guys from Arcanum. Over and out.

  • Neno

    I can see than nobody wants to talk about the pink elephant here. So I will have to ask! Who is this idiot beautox and why is everybody even bother to answer any of his posts. The guy has no imagination, the art is not for people like this. Great job guys from Arcanum.

  • Caleb Clark

    those are the basics of that art. before the master painter can paint the master piece, he must understand his brushes. the same with a camera. you must understand how the tool works to use it at the height of its function. it looks to be a 101 course. as long as the attention is personalized and the progress into the artistry is real, why not have fun while you up your game a little bit.

  • Caleb Clark

    actually, “getting the exposure right” would be the 1st step in making the art of photography. When that meets good composition you have art. You wouldn’t expect a clay sculpture to not understand the kiln would you? There isn’t a camera man in Hollywood who doesn’t know how to get the right F stop on the shot that they are doing. Step one of being the master of a tool is learning how to use it.

  • Caleb Clark

    i’m sure that you would get future “jobs” by your portfolio. that is the way of the artist in reality. It does look to be an academic institution. when you come out of it the level of art you produce should be of quality that sets the bar. And it is your work that will show to future clients.

  • cchdisqus

    true, portfolios can really sell you to clients. However, not all photography based jobs are client/photographer based. In the area I specialize in, odd as it is, portfolio is a small, and I mean, small part of the hiring process. People still need references to vouch for one’s professional and personal character.

  • Paul Danger Kile

    Trey: the “don’t use Harry Potter names” is good advice, but the rest of the negativity? Just ignore it. You are doing the right thing here.

    You do a number of things that might be threatening to folks that believe that photography’s traditional ways, are the only ways:
    — You licensed images under Creative Commons, and actually made money doing it.
    — You made a career out of not-having clients.
    — You provide affordable training to everyone: not just professionals.
    — Now you are setting up a mentoring program that’s affordable.

    These things are so different from the conventional wisdom, that they may actually be threatening to people.

  • Erin

    Nothing new here other than hype to a greater reach of potential customers that are attracted to new terms or marketing. Add hip glasses, tie into the behemoth that is Google without paying Google, add funky marketing names for the same thing as before, tie in to the marketing behemoths of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, without paying for the marketing tie in, jazz up teaching & workshops by making it sound exclusive & by making it exclusive, therefore it “must” be better or new. If you spoke in Klingon & added Klingon lables that were also new, then you’d get a flurry of those that loved Klingons, vs. Harry Potter, or Hobbits.
    Marketing is funny stuff, I hear ithat it’s about Persuasion & this new old idea is just trying to persuade you that this is new, different, shiny, better, more honest, more effective, the past was inadequate, you are cheating yourself if you don’t “buy” in. Is this a need or a want that Trey is trying to market “beginners” with?
    Kudos for teaching. Kudos for getting some people “excited” with the Bling. Sad that it’s $30/mth, the new subscription based model that is also “new”? Selling is selling. If you buy in, then you also sell out.

  • False Equivalency

    You still need to know the basics of how your tools / equipment works, even at an artistic school. There is nothing bait and switch about this.