Topic: Analog (27 posts) Page 2 of 6

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: Black and White,Analog,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: Black and White,Analog,Northeast,Vintage

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

Newtown, CT 3

This is the last in a three part essay on the series called Newtown, CT, a portfolio of photographs I made in 1998.

In Newtown 2 (here), the last picture we looked at was this.

It is a transition or hinge picture in that it is used to get us to the next one, or two really. Before we go there I need to write about the structure as it becomes important as we move on to the next them. Its make up is that it is three horizontal bands, the pavement, the building and the sky one. Yes, it is very simple.

It also is the same way the next pictures are structured:

The same scene made first in sunlight and then with the sun behind a cloud. Also simple.This happened as I was standing there making the first one. A landscaping crew came in, probably before construction started, and clear cut the woods. This pair reinforce that all is not right in this assisted living facility in Newtown, CT. Personally, this was a big event for me as this was, I believe, the first time I did this, to place two pictures like this in a series. I believe it focuses attention on the choice I made and is an effort to draw attention not only to the fact that I stood there, camera in hand, and made a clear choice to make pictures of both sunny and cloud covered. Finally, for more on my thinking during this time it might be helpful to go back to the Lebanon, NH series, which are here. There are also three blog posts on the  series, which start here.

Here we go. A new subset and another new way for me to photograph.

What was I thinking?

Why did I do this? 

These make the core or foundation of the Newtown, CT series.

First of all let me give you some  inside information. These are made with a fixed lens camera, so I either cropped to make these or I just walked up the hill to make them in succession. I did the latter. I also printed them lighter as I made them to emphasize the increasing white in the frames. Finally, I made this subset completely intuitively, having no idea that I would use them in the final body of work. They were an experiment and completely out of the norm for me. 

This is the next to last in this long series and is there to allow us to begin to leave, showing us where we've been to some extent but also to contrast the bright white of the former set.

And this is the last. Remember the picture with the three bushes planted in the grass? Here we are again with three, this time with flowers in pots. But look how dark this one is. We are consumed with black here, so deep we don't really know what is in there. This is a very specific print, pushed way down to make a point and not residing in anyone's definition of a "good print".

We are now done with Newtown, CT. Before I close, let me give you some perspective as I look at these now 18 years later (I am writing this in the spring of 2016). Brutal and severe. That's what these pictures are. With the photographs wrapped in a deceptively conventional package of black and white photography and a late spring sunny day, the underlying message is harsh, critical and angry. I was angry at the inhumanity of the place, the sloppy design and lack of aesthetic that pervaded. This isn't a cost thing, it is a "care" thing. It doesn't cost more to think things through, to design based upon a care for our human condition and what it means to live in a place like this. The designers of this place did not have that concern. Not caring pervades throughout our contemporary times and culture and is a pet peeve of mine.

The methodology I used to make these pictures was both conventional and different for me. Remember that the way pictures like these are usually viewed is in a portfolio and they are seen one at a time, as in pages in a book. This means the sequence I made over several photographs of the unfinished building is unveiled one at a time in a subset of pictures that seem endless and increasingly microscopic as though we are analyzing something very far away with great detail. Exactly my point, like a scapel and yes, brutal. There is also an insider view being expressed here. Part of what we can do as artist photographers is move in on the mundane to analyze in minute detail allowing analogy to larger issues. I was trying to draw attention not only to the place and the living conditions but also to my own way of seeing. As such there is a personal statement contained within the overall structure of the Newtown pictures.This was something of a personal breakthrough for this photographer and I remember being very excited at the time at what I had done, hoping that I could pull it off back in the darkroom when I made the prints.

I hope I've been able to help in understanding these photographs I made. I know they are not pretty and although beauty often plays a large role in my photography, these are something different. I thank you for looking and staying with me through the three posts.

Feel free to let me know what you think. My email address is: nrantoul@comcast.net

Topics: Black and White,Analog,Northeast,Vintage

Permalink | Posted April 3, 2016

Newtown, CT 2

This post continues to look at the pictures I made in 1998 of an assisted living facility in Newtown, CT. 

In number 8, the last image in the first post, which is here, we were looking at the backs of the housing units. Here I've walked up to the end of the row of them and turned 180 degrees to view them in the full context of the blasted out rock on the left. This is the third time I did that, turned to face what had been behind me.

My effort here was to show the rock in the context of the village and move us on to new things while paying homage to where we came from.

Now we're really going to look at the units or dwellings. In this case they look stacked up on top of each other like building blocks and with garages predominating. Note the one plant out there in the asphalt jungle of the driveway.

Forgive the digression but I need to write about the printing of the Newtown series. If you've read this blog for a while you know about the importance in my work of the Portland, Maine series, made in 1996. Those are here. I wrote several posts about them which start here. They were a group of photographs that brought me back to a fundamental way of working, which was the sequenced series. They also brought me into something very new and that was the making of series work in bright sunlight. I know, not so earth shattering to you, but to me it was a big concept. So here we are in 1998 two years after Portland, making a series in very bright sunlight. My point is, that the printing of Newtown reflects this: bright whites and deep blacks. Number 11 above does just that, with very bright whites in particular.

Let's move on, to # 12:

Yes, the rock again but with this car parked in front of it. Can we draw conclusions here? Can we use the juxtaposition to associate the timelessness of the rock against something so in the present as a car parked there at the end of the 20th century? Is that too much? And here we are in one of the key pictures in the series, looking at the absolute banality of three recently planted bushes, some rather rough looking grass and some trees, with a light gray sky. Remember the picture of just that rock, number 6? This is the plant-based equivalent and speaks to how caged in this place is. This one also establishes the subset topic for the next few pictures: the planting and surrounding trees.

Here again I've worked to contextualize the photographs, to place the very black perimeter so that we see it as a fence or a barrier.


This one, number 15,is a study in contrast from the previous picture, that one being so very dark to this one being so very light. Funny to think that white in photography, as in a gesso'd canvas, is simply the substrate itself. It is the grays and the blacks around it that convey a sense of brightness. This one looks almost bleached to me and blindingly bright.


Here it is in all its glory, as this photograph shows how the units are positioned in a long row opposite each other, little patio facing little patio, with our rock wall way in the back topped by, again, black trees, bushes planted somewhat haphazardly and an almost out of scale fire hydrant in the foreground. Finally, our puffy clouds again. I'm sure the importance of this photographs hasn't escaped you as this one really does lay it all out.

This will end this second post in the critique of the Newtown series work. 

I remember having some reservations about including this (which is #17) in the 28 print series but kept it in as it brought us back into an emphasis on pavement, at almost half the frame, and the row of bushes planted to ease the bottom of this rigorous structure as a sort of a "skirt". It also repeats number (#15) the light one with the single tree, but time no longer moderated by anything in front of it.

Newtown, CT 3 coming up, and the last.

Stay tuned.

Topics: Black and White,Analog,Vintage

Permalink | Posted March 30, 2016