Topic: Analog (24 posts) Page 1 of 5

Hershey Again

I know, here I am pushing the new book Hershey, PA again. But bear with me, as I have a reason behind this. BTW: It is printed, it is available and it is very very good. You should get one.

It is for sale at the Griffin Museum in Winchester, MA and also at 555 Gallery in Boston and through me by emailing me at: Neal's Email

This is a very important series in my career and the second of twelve books we are printing that showcase my series works in black and white that I made from 1981-2005. These are elegant small books, 7 inches square and are signed and numbered. They are $25 each plus shipping.

So, now that I have covered the necessaries, let me explain what I believe to be a new business model that is brilliant. Yes, I thought of it myself and no I am not a business person. I am an artist. But how can I put out these books, which I think are important, and not lose my shirt in the process? Print books, sell them and use those funds to print the next one, book after book. Yes, you need some up front funds,  but once the seed money is there, if you are successful in selling the books, you can perpetuate the run of all twelve by turning the funds made into printing the next book.

Let me give you some specifics. As a trial we printed 25 of the first book called Oakesdale, WA.

Big run, right? It sold out quickly, not surprising as we printed only 25 of them. It cost $715 to print using Blurb (an on-demand printer) and we made $625 in sales. Okay, a loss. But with Blurb  if you print more, over 50, you get a 25% discount. So, learning from my loss in the first one, we have now printed 50 of the Hershey book. 

Let me step aside here and address the issue of print quality. I have been making books now for a very long time and have made both traditional offset printing press books and many on demand books with many printers, (Apple, My Publisher, Blurb, Mag Cloud,etc). On-demand books have now reached a quality level that is very high.You have to keep the publisher's nose to the grindstone, however, in that sometimes a press run will come through too dark or the colors not right. You need to send them very good files and follow through to make sure they get it right. No one wants to reprint a whole run of books but occasionally they will need to do this. It is up to you to make this happen.

Is this a model for huge profit? Not so much. Is it an effective way to print several books, one after the other, as a way to get work out to a larger audience? Yes. Is it brilliant? Well, I might be a little biased but I will leave that decision up to you.

Downsides and drawbacks? Yes, Blurb's printing cycle takes two weeks and sometimes longer so there is no quick turnaround. Right now we are printing one or two first to see the book as a proof before committing to a bigger run. This is essential, at least in my case. Each time we do this we catch mistakes in the first run that we can then correct before printing many copies. Add another two weeks or so. Blurb's shipping costs are very high, I believe as a way to make more. And finally, they package poorly, sending the books in cardboard that barely makes it to its destination.

Finally, we now have a design "template" that we can plug the photographs into. This streamlines the design process and makes the design coherent through the run of the twelve books we plan. 

In conclusion, here I am blogging away, revealing all my secrets and my business acumen. Yeah, right. At any rate, my hope is that this might spur you on to use the idea for your own photographs you want made into books. Lastly, we are starting to work with a local printer to see if we can get the same high quality we had with Blurb but for less cost. Trying to buy local. Stay tuned.

Topics: Books,Black and White,vintage,Analog

Permalink | Posted February 7, 2017

Photographic Fulfillment

In the large movement of the thing we call "photography"where it has become so large as to be pervasive I believe most are looking for photographic fulfillment. Let me qualify: this pertains to those of you that call yourselves photographers.

Sure, perhaps not so much when you're young or just snap shooting but, yes in the world of artistic photo expression, fulfillment. Simple, really. In your list of aspirations, being realistic, are you going to get discovered all of a sudden (whether you're in your fifties or sixties or thirties and forties, doesn't matter) by getting that key slot in the Whitney Biennial this year, the solo show at MOMA, the MacArthur? Probably not. But to derive satisfaction from your work, to be fulfilled by the art you make, well, there's just about nothing better.

So, what is that? This ambition we have? This drive? 

Is it solely because we love what photography can do? I don't think so, although that's in there.

Is it because we have a gift and are sharing it with the world? (Read my post on  Nobody Cares about Your Photography: here.).

Is it because our audience demands it? Again, not so much.

Ah yes, love this one: is it for financial reward? Hah! Very funny.

Is it because we're God's gift? Probably not.

No, I believe it is mostly for fulfillment, or what little spark of completion, resolution, redemption, satisfaction we get when we touch close to this holy grail. Once you've got some years of experience under your belt, once you've lived a while and what serves as wisdom that comes from hindsight is in there, when you're practicing this rather odd thing of going out into the world to make pictures with some tool around your neck, it is fulfillment that sustains.  Complete a new body of work, something that holds to my standards, finish and look back with the realization that I learned something and grew and shared some perceptions that I believe are worthy of your consideration, to add some beauty poetry and music to someone's day, to share in our common human experience. Yes, that's very fulfilling, both to me and to you if the work is good.

But this isn't so easy todo, is it? This work we do, trying to reach something unobtainable or at least extremely illusive, often glimpsed but seldom achieved. That's probably why we keep coming back for more, as abusive as it may seem. For me my specific hot point is something I think of as being "sublime".  There have been many over my career and, I hope, many more. Let me show you a few: 

Nantucket 1981

It is very hard for me to disassociate the single picture from the series it comes from, so I usually don't. However, I certainly can find the one key picture from a series, as in the Nantucket one above, as it launched in essence my whole career.

Hershey, PA 1996

Healsdburg, CA, 1999

There isn't always complete alignment in what I think of as being sublime with viewers of my work. That's okay as each brings their own baggage to looking at work. But perhaps the level is what is most important, that I have raised the bar on a viewer's expectations.

Bermuda, 1980

Professional viewers, curators, collectors, gallerists and critics look at photographs a little differently this way: how the work might fit in the stable of photographers they show, fit into their collection, fit in a historical context, fit in a show they are working on down the line or even if my sex, age or race fit, whether by showing my work or purchasing it will look good in their colleague's eyes, move them up in their own careers, and so on. It is never as simple as great work getting acclaim and being committed to.

 "Mona" from the Monsters series, Fitchburg, MA 2014

Where does this leave us in our pursuit for fulfillment? Well, keep the bar high, of course. Making art is not really about compromising or settling, at least in this context. I also believe we are lifetime students, hungry to learn, progress and move forward. Finally, I don't know that I've ever been completely satisfied by something I've done, content or fulfilled by a a completed series; frequently close, but perfection is illusive after all.

National Museum of Health and Medicine, Bethesda, MD 2014

It's simple really. Keep working. Ever heard of a retired artist? Artists don't usually retire, they just die.

Near Pullman, WA 2013

One thing is for sure, finding photographic fulfillment while sitting around and not photographing is mostly impossible. When have you ever regretted going out to shoot? Me, never. Something usually happens, some idea forms, some way of looking at things differently presents itself, some perspective on my surroundings shifts a little, opening a door to try something, to click the shutter. Actually, that is very fulfilling.

To close, one of my teachers way back in the 70's was Aaron Siskind. What a great guy and photographer. He called the fulfillment I've been writing about here "the juice", as in how something ordinary like an olive tree or a stone wall becomes elevated to a high level through our eyes with a camera. So true, imbuing something mundane with something special so that it transcends its own existence. One of the things we do, yes?

The Palouse from above, Washington 2016

Topics: Commentary,Analog,Digital

Permalink | Posted December 6, 2016

Oakesdale Book

It is a distinct pleasure to be able to announce the publication of something very special. The new book of the Oakesdale Series is just out, as it just arrived this week.

This is the first in a run of small books that are going be printed that showcase my vintage series work from the 1980's and 90's. Each book will have just one series, and will be numbered and signed by me.

The books will be small, 7 x 7 inches, modest and inexpensive but beautifully designed and printed. We are making an initial run of twelve separate books and will offer a slipcased box to hold them in.

Currently either in process or under consideration are the following series:

Hershey, PA

Yountville, CA

Nantucket, MA

Peddocks Island, MA

Old Trail Town, Cody, WY

Solothurn, CH

Moab, Utah

Chaco Canyon, NM

Northampton Fairgrounds, MA

Billings, MT

Thompson, CT

I can't express just how good they look. They are gorgeous. Oakesdale is now out and Hershey is in the final editing phase:

The books will be sold locally in the Boston area and also available online through my website.

If you're interested, please let us know (Neal's email). That way we'll know how many to print in subsequent printings. I believe earlier numbers in this limited edition project will be prized as collectors will want to get in early,  as well as lower numbers in the edition will be cheaper. Pricing will be tiered: the first 100 copies of each book will sell for $25 each, with shipping and handling added to that. The next 100 will increase in price and so on. Finally, you will be able to subscribe to all twelve books, receiving one after the other as they are published. Caution: don't order yet. Let us put in place the payment and shipping structure first so that we can get these books to you in a timely and efficient manner.

I like to think of these new books in this way: while most who follow my work will never get to see the original prints from these series, you can, for the cost of a few cups of coffee or a modest meal out, have a signed and numbered copy of a book that is elegant and dedicated to individual series, photographs that constitute seminal work from my career.

These are very beautiful books. Designed by Andrea Star Greitzer, a valued colleague, former student and key friend, Andrea is the force behind most of my publications and is responsible for any branding associated with my name and work.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Topics: Analog,Black and White,Domestic

Permalink | Posted November 17, 2016

Northampton Fairgrounds

This is another in the group of blogs I've been posting taking a look at series made but not seen. Well, mostly not seen. The Northampton Fairground pictures were made in 2001. In 2010 I did show some of them at an exhibit I had at Panopticon Gallery in Boston but I'd be willing to bet that few of you have seen them before.

The full series is on the site: here.

These stuck to a prescribed plan, well oiled by this time. Scout area to shoot, load up with several rolls of black and white film, hang light meter on strap around my neck, walk and photograph in a proportion of about 4:1, meaning overshoot and then in editing cut down to about 1 keeper to every 4 shot. 

By 2001 the future seemed clear to me. The days of my darkroom printing were numbered. The Fairground pictures are one of the last I made on film and printed with an enlarger using chemistry in my darkroom. While I would stick with shooting film for several more years I would soon be scanning and inkjet printing my pictures. 

Of course, snow to a landscape photographer presents opportunities and challenges. It tends to reduce content, emphasize what's above the horizon line and maximize form. These were made mid winter on another of countless "get in the car and drive looking for photographs to make" day trips, very often on Sundays if I was teaching during the week. Northampton is about 1 1/2 hours drive out the Mass Turnpike from where I live in Cambridge. Not being well known had its advantages. Most free days were just that, no conflict, no one calling, no gallery representing my work. Free time to work.

In all these years I've learned to give serious attention to any and all fairgrounds I come across, if I can get in. The Northampton Fairground is gated but on a Sunday morning with a fresh coat of snow, the gate was open. 

There was a little cemetery along the back edge of the fairgrounds that got my attention.

This is what Mark Feeney, one of the Boston Globe's photography reviewers, wrote about the above picture:

When a Rantoul photograph includes any effect other than the most straightforward, the result can be ravishing. A picture of the Northampton Fairgrounds shows a tree in snow, an image of almost Zen spareness, yet cropped in such a way that a delicate tracery of shadows from the branches fills much of the photograph.

The words by Feeney have helped me through far leaner and meaner times. Thank you, Mark.

I continued to play with angles, the snow and bright sunlight helping here, removing the ground and allowing work with the shadows.

Then, play with words, culminating in this one below:

And then concluding with:

the first with more darks than lights.

Like something you see on the blog? Wonder if it's possible to look at actual prints? There are two ways. Ask Susan Nalband at 555 Gallery in Boston if you can get a look at a specific series or body of work.  Or, coming up soon, check out  Allston Open Studios on November 12 and 13 where the work is.

Hope to see you then.

Topics: Northeast,vintage,Black and White,Analog

Permalink | Posted October 23, 2016

Chaco Canyon

Note: the blog is going to take a look at several series works I made in the late 90's and early 2000's that haven't been on the site before.  I stopped working this way in 1984 and then took it up again in 1996. 

Chaco Canyon. Ever been? Know where and what it is? Chaco Canyon is Anasazi Indian ruins about a 3 1/2 hours drive due west from Santa Fe, NM. It is is what is left of a large complex of dwellings abandoned by the Anasazi Indians as they retreated for unknown reasons in about the twelfth century. They were thriving, building, farming and then they were gone by the end of the twelfth century. A real mystery. Theories abound with the most plausible being a drought that forced the tribe to head north, to become nomadic after more than 500 years in this one valley. 

I've been many times and have even spent the night there, sleeping under the stars. Made pictures there too. 

My series starts off with this one of the large great house called Chetro Ketl, but quickly leaves it as I headed up a trail that carves through the cliff face to arrive at the top looking out on the canyon below and the plateau above it.

Petroglyphs are common here.

Chaco Canyon is strikingly beatuful, accessed by traveling on a dirt road that closes when it rains, hidden away in a valley on a plateau in the desert. It's a mysterious place, filled with ghosts of a time long  gone, of a vibrant community and highly civilized society that simply left and vanished.

Let me provide some context. I made the Chaco Canyon series in 1998. This series came a couple of years after I made the Portland, Maine series (here) and a year after the Oakeksdale Cemetery one in 1997 (here). I was back in the business of making series work after a spell of 12 years or so. I'd concentrated during those years on working in 8 x 10.  That work was far more incidental (individual photographs intended to stand on their own as opposed to sequenced and ordered bodies of work). This was a very prolific time for me as the Oakesdale Cemetery series introduced me to many new ways of making pictures in sequence. My idea behind what the narrative form was also changed during this time. I was seeking now to expand an understanding of a place into many pictures but also to be more directorial as well. Chaco Canyon conforms both to earlier ways of putting pictures next to pictures but also extends it by being a highly specific and intentional journey that was mine alone.

The full Chaco Canyon series is on the site: here


The series concludes with this picture above, carved into the rock floor of the cliff  above the Anasazi dwellings. I was photographing here on a far more subliminal level, trying to convey a sense of a past civilization and a collective intelligence that was staggering. Imagine leaving the home you grew up in but also the whole city around you leaving too.

For me the concept is to imbue my pictures with something of, yes, the place where we are, but also of our perception and emotional reaction to where we are. This is what is missing from so very much of the landscape work we see on line these days. I've written before about "special places", where we find some visceral and personal connection to some place where we are, whether it is something like Chaco Canyon, or something closer and more privately held.

I urge you, if interested, to come to  555 Gallery in Boston to see the prints.

As always, I am very appreciative of your taking the time to look at my work and to read my thoughts about it.

Topics: Black and White,vintage,Southwest,Analog,Landscape

Permalink | Posted October 7, 2016