Topic: Black and White (56 posts) Page 2 of 12

INFRARED

1976. I know, another century, way before you were born, archaic pictures from a different time, totally irrelevant to present day photography. Well, you don't have to read this but that's where I am going, showing  you some work I made then. In the mid 70's I had started teaching at the New England School of Photography (NESOP) in Boston and was shooting a lot of 35mm, in earlier days with a Nikon and then a little later a Leica M4. Most summers I spent some time with my folks at Martha's Vineyard where the family home is. Going to the beach I'd bring a camera. We had access to a private beach on the South Shore called Squibnocket in those days. On long afternoons in the hot summer sun I would wander off and explore with a camera loaded with Kodak black and white infrared film and a 25A three stop red filter on the front of a wide angle lens. This below is typical of the kind of picture I'd make, hanging the camera around my neck and setting it on a self timer, my hands sliding into the frame, a desire to interact with what was in front of me, to play a part in the picture:

Way back there as two dots on the water are a pair of swans. This was taken after walking back from the shore and the surf to a private inland pond. I made many more like these in those years, not really knowing why, not able to verbalize well what the motive was, more of a feeling than a thought. I wasn't alone, others were making more personal pictures, extending photography to areas not seen before, putting themselves in the frame. Occasionally I still do this. These from Iceland a few years ago:

I believe this way of working affirms a belief in the medium's inherent malleability, in its capability of being almost anything visual, looking like what is in front of the lens, looking nothing like the reality at all.

At any rate, bringing it back to infrared in the 70's, I had started photographing foliage in the spring and summer with the film, knowing it reacted to the chlorophyll in the foliage, rendering it light, while making blue skies go dark.

These are from Mt Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA near where I live. Mt Auburn has been a source of many of my pictures over the years. These and more I used for a grant application in 1978, which I did not receive.

I wanted to exert controls over the pictures then that would alter the images, make them in strong color (chemically toned black and white prints), using a wide lens (in this case the 21 Summicron lens on a Leica), and making them as big as I could get away with, 16 x 20 inches.

Eventually I found my hands slipping into cemetery pictures locally and as I travelled. These never became a fixed set, just an amalgam of pictures from different locations.

I don't have a strong background in religion and am not religious now. But not believing in a fixed religion doesn't mean you don't have a sense of purpose or that you aren't spiritual in some way. I think of these pictures as speaking to a connection, to empathy for others and a desire to connect on a level that is sympathetic. I've never shown them, until now.

I can cite two friends as influences: Jane Tuckerman, who has worked in infrared her whole career and who was a colleague of mine at Harvard, and Peter Laytin, who first exposed me to infrared and its possibilities. Thanks to you both.

After these I moved on to photograph using infrared at the concentration camp Dachau, in Germany. Let me know if you'd like to see those. 

Topics: infrared,US,Europe,vintage,Black and White,70's

Permalink | Posted March 14, 2017

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

Is It Possible?

Is it possible that we are art while we are making art? Is it possible that the way we move, the way we use our bodies can be part of the art as we make our photographs? Is it possible that our stance, or position, or our fluidity as we place ourselves or react to something we are photographing has a big effect on the result? I think so. This isn't talked about much, isn't acknowledged but making photographs is a physical thing, you out there with a camera in the real world, on a street, in a field, on a train, in a room, in a crowd, in a studio. Where you are and, I would maintain, how you are, affects the outcome in a large way. And yet it is completely counterintuitive for us to try different positions. We tend to make the picture from where we first saw it. Walking down the sidewalk, camera in hand and we see something we want to photograph, we don't move, we stand right there and make the picture. Wrong. What about how our body is, this tool we inhabit our whole lives? What about its well being? Can it move and bend and be flexible to help put us where we should be?

Henri Cartier Bresson, Mr. "decisive moment" would have been right with me on this. He likened the act of photographing to dance, photographing as choreography. You can see this in his pictures, this magic of being in the right place at the right time doesn't just happen by accident.

As an example, I learned the lesson from him early in my career that to to get above and point down is an effective tactic. This states the obvious but to someone who deals with the horizon often in his work a strategy to eliminate the sky has to include getting above things and pointing down.

The result can be a perspective that is both fresh and distinctive. Bresson used this throughout his whole career, as have I.

This photograph used by permission, from my friend Marybeth Groff, its owner.

This one above carries the idea to the extreme. I made this in the 90's with an an 8 x 10 inch view camera hanging out over a railing on a bridge pointing straight down. The photograph from the Berkshires in western Massachusetts is part of what I call the "Down Work"  that includes work from the US, Italy and France, all in 8 x 10. This picture is one of the influencers to me starting to make aerial photos ten years later.

Orvieto, Italy 1992

My point: you can't deny the platform you use to make your pictures. It is your body. Don't deny looking at things from a different position when you make your pictures. Up high, down low, to the right, to the left, standing up on something or lying down on the ground

Moab, Utah 1998

makes a very big difference. 

Part of the art of making pictures.

Topics: Black and White,vintage,Utah,Teaching blog

Permalink | Posted January 23, 2017

South Shore 1977

Then 1977. Now 2017... forty years ago. Forty Years Ago! OMG! What happened? Shocking.

At any rate, in 1977 I was teaching two days a week at New England School of Photography in Boston and that's it. I was thirty years old and had finished gradate study at RISD in 1973. I didn't start teaching at Harvard until the fall of 1978. I knew this was no way to make a living, one class that met 2 days a week, but I did have a lot of time to work. I remember I worried about money a lot. In January through March that year I packed up my camera and headed to the south shore of Massachusetts from Cambridge, where I still live. I worked on the idea of blue skies made darker with the use of a 3 stop red filter- i.e. in black and white photography, a color filter over the lens makes its own color go light and its opposite colors go darker- at the numerous summer shacks and houses near towns like Plymouth and Situate and at beaches like Scusset Beach. My favorite routine was: shoot am, get lunch, shoot pm til close to dark, drive home, develop film, eat dinner, print, sleep. If it clouded up I'd head home.

I remember these came hard as I wanted a certain look. As minimal statements, they are series work before I made series work. They roughly connect but are not tightly sequenced, they're simply a body of work in my eyes. It wouldn't be until three years later that I would stumble across sequenced series works with the one called Nantucket.

Yes, they are very dark and moody, almost inky in the blacks. Also, they are  heavily toned, with a Kodak toner called Rapid Selenium Toner which was used in the hypo clear tray, after the print was fixed. I used this toner extensively in my  black and white years. I shudder to think how much as it not good environmentally.

I  made this with a Rollei Sl66 (which I still have), a single lens reflex 2 1/4 camera. I learned that I could place the horizon just where I wanted by raising or lowering the center column on the tripod (mine was geared and had a crank for setting the camera higher or lower). I thought this was cool, of course, as it gave me a sort of power over the outcome of the picture by controlling how thick the band of water would be as I put something in front of it.

The prints are about 10 inches square and mounted on 16 inch square museum board.

I remember I was entranced with the look of these when they were done. To be able to get this smooth transition from the darkest sky at the top to the lightest at the bottom still appeals. Yes, I was working on a skill set. The ability to render these with absolute evenness and smoothness then was very difficult. This all concerned the processing of the film in that the chemistry needed to flow across the emulsion in a random but consistent manner so that no one area got more developed than another and that no flow patterns were established. So easy today as digital just renders it as it is, but so hard then. Was this work shown? Yes, many times but only in those earlier years. At the New England School of Photography's gallery, at the Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover, MA, in a local cooperative gallery, at a bar, and so on.

The full group of them are up on the site now and hold the distinction of residing at the very bottom of the gallery page as they are the first body of work chronologically on the site (the gallery page runs that way: the oldest on the bottom and the newest at the top). They are here.

Thanks for reading my blog.

Topics: Black and White,vintage,Northeast

Permalink | Posted January 8, 2017

Zakim Bridge

In March 2001 the Zakim Bridge was under construction in Boston. Part of the infamous "Big Dig", the Zakim spans the Charles River and feeds Rt 93 into the depressed artery under Boston. Due to its cable construction it changed Boston's sky line in a big way. I was shooting the bridge occasionally with the 8 x 10 but seized on the chance to go to the top with a smaller camera when an engineering student who was studying photography with me and interning for the construction company that built the bridge offered to take a friend and I up. Very scary this as the stairs were metal and part of the exterior scaffolding that encased one of the two towers. It was windy and cold.  On the way up I needed to stop a couple of times, frightened and shaking, to calm myself down as heights aren't so easy for me. I realized that I'd be a fool to back down. Soon enough I found myself at the top. There we found three of the crew working to replace a ripped and torn American flag with a new one. Of course, the famous picture by Joe Rosenthal of Iwo Jima made towards the end of WW II came to mind.  

First the old flag needed to come down, shredded by the wind. Later, I was amazed to see that the angle of the flagpole was the same in both pictures.

Then the new one went up

Wonder what the view from up there was like?

First up river towards Cambridge

and then of Boston itself, with the incomplete bridge below

And finally, what the bridge looked like a couple of days ago during our first snowstorm

showing the tower I climbed in 2001.

I am glad I went to the top that day, a once in a lifetime chance. And I am pleased to be able to share it with you.

Topics: Black and White,vintage,Northeast,Boston

Permalink | Posted December 19, 2016