Topic: Books (10 posts) Page 1 of 2

Portland, Maine

The book Portland is now out. This is the 4th in the series of small books that  highlight my series works from the 80's and 90's.

These are available by emailing me directly (nrantoul@comcast.net) or they will be for sale at the Griffin Museum of Photography. Portland is also on the website: here.


Topics: Books,Series,vintage

Permalink | Posted July 22, 2017

Robert Pirsig 1927-2017

Dead at 88 years old. One of my heroes, as he wrote Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which I read in about 1977. Perhaps you read it too. I didn't understand some of it, but the idea of turning a road trip across America on a motorcycle into to an existential pursuit of self and the meaning of life sure did appeal.

Along with Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and a few others, including Looking at Photographs by John Szarkowski and On Photography by Susan Sontag, these books formed a foundation of pursuit, enquiry and aesthetic maturation for me and, I am sure, many others from my generation.

Because of this blog and the need to go back into my creative life and its projects, I am able, for the first time, to see my own development taking place in my work. This is now reflected in the talks and presentations I give and in my writing for the introductions to the series works books we are making.

But Pirsig rocked my world. I remember this wonderful description he gave us of assembling his 4 x 5 view camera, placing it on his tripod and trying to capture the grandeur of the expanse of a Kansas field with 360 degrees of open sky and flowing wheat, then packing it up and riding away with no pictures made, understanding the medium's limitations and his struggle to put his feelings into photographs. 

That story from his book certainly was in my mind as I was making this picture in 2009 in the Palouse in SE Washington.

Apologies for this odd sort of eulogy but I offer it in the spirit of the loss we have suffered in his passing. I owe Mr. Pirsig a debt of gratitude for his generosity in sharing his thoughts and experiences and am thankful for the richness of what he wrote. 

Rest well, Robert Pirsig.

Topics: Books,Commentary,eulogy

Permalink | Posted April 26, 2017

The Good and the Bad

Those that self publish books using on demand publishers like Blurb, Asuka and My Publisher should know that one one of them is going out of business. My Publisher has announced they will no longer fill orders after May 6. This is bad news for us as we have made 6 books with them.

I chose My Publisher because they offered a 15 inch book and printed on heavier stock. This was bad in that the books were expensive, usually costing us anywhere from $85 to $100 to have made, but good as the books were gorgeous, certainly of the highest quality of any of the other publishers I had seen.

So, where does that leave us in terms of filling orders for these books? In truth, we don't really know. The company is allowing downloads of the folders that were used to make the books, leaving us with the existing designs and templates to continue with the books. My Publisher has a sister company called Shutter Fly that can be used but they do not make books of the same size.

So, yes, this is bad news. How will this affect sales of my books? Well, it will effectively end them in their current form. Andrea Greitzer, the designer of these books, and I will work to transform the downloads into new  books with the same  titles and content as before, but yes, they will be different books. 

I can see a couple of upsides to this end of My Publisher. One is that in the efforts to make new  books of these photographs of mine we will work to make them less expensive and more modest. For the new series of books we are making now, to date the Oakesdale, Hershey and Yountville books

we have switched printers from Blurb to a local printer with great success. Our costs are less, there are no shipping charges and proofing takes days not weeks. These are very different kinds of books, of course, small, modest and very cheap at $25 each. I will approach the local press, called Ambit Creative, to see about having them take on the bigger books in the future.

One of the advantages of My Publisher was that I needed no inventory. When I got a sale, I would order the book from My Publisher and have it sent directly to the buyer. This usually took about two weeks. In the new small books we are using the proceeds from the sale of one to pay for the printing of the next, as twelve are planned.

Is there profit here, have I made money from the sale of the My Publisher books? No, not really. That was never my intent. I used the books as a marketing tool to get my work seen in an accessible way. What they really were was a repeatable form of portfolio. I have left books behind to represent my work in meetings with curators, for instance. 

A brief story as an example. Anne Tucker is quite simply the most revered and respected curator in the USA, with a career that spans many firsts in her field. She is now retired but was the curator of photography at the Houston Art Museum for many many years. Several years ago I was spending most of the winter on an extended shoot in Yuma and took a day to see the Rothko Chapel in Houston, a few hours drive away. On a whim I called Anne the day before, asking if I could come see her. I had shown her work many years earlier and she had written a recommendation for me for a Guggenheim Fellowship. She said sure and so, after an hour or so at the Chapel,  I went to the museum with nothing other than my Wheat book under my arm.

This would not be a formal presentation, I wasn't trying to get her to acquire my work or show it, I was just coming to see her and show her something of what I'd been up to recently. We had a great time. She was in fine form, enjoying herself    as her graduate student intern joined us and she was telling stories.  She looked at the book, liked the work and chose two photographs she thought would make a good addition to the Museum's collection. Just like that. No prints needed. I was in shock. She had just accepted two of my photographs into a very prestigious museum's collection from a book I'd shown her. When I got home I made the prints she'd chosen and sent them to the museum. Done.

Wondering if I got the Guggenheim Fellowship? I did not.

So, can you order any of the My Publisher books from me before they close up shop? Yes.Take a look at the "Books" heading on my site, email me and I will place the order and have the book(s) sent directly to you. You will need to send me a check before I place the order. You have until the first week in May. My email is: here 

One more thing. I will be at the Griffin Museum this Sunday, March 26 at their Photo Book Fair from 2-4 with copies of all these books to show and to sell.

For more information about My Publisher closing its doors? Go here

Topics: Books

Permalink | Posted March 23, 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

Shoot What You Love

Friend, colleague and former classmate Henry Horenstein has a new book out.

The book "Shoot What You Love"uses photographs from Henry's huge archive of his career's work and surrounds them with stories about the places, the people and the circumstances behind his pictures that are relevant, humorous, poignant and that deepen our understanding of this superb contemporary artist.

Henry and I were unique in that we we had our senior year as undergraduate students at Rhode Island School of Design together and then continued on for two years of graduate studies. That means I've known Henry since 1969! Long time.

If you don't know Henry's work, then you're in for a treat. The title "Shoot What You Love"  is the advice one our teachers, Harry Callahan, gave Henry in class one day. Henry had said that he didn't know what to photograph. Harry replied that if Henry shot what he loved, even if the pictures weren't any good, he would have a good time. Henry took this to heart as this is what he's done his whole career.  Country and western musicians, baseball, horse racing, stock car racing, burlesque, fish in aquariums, nudes, his family; a wide variety of interests, obsessions and preoccupations are topics for Henry with his camera.

Excuse the hyperbole but Henry Horenstein is one of the greats. With a lifetime  drive, Henry's an extensive traveler while holding a position as a professor at RISD in Providence. Callahan often taught us by example and it's a lesson Henry learned well. We knew that when he wasn't in class chances were pretty good he'd be out shooting or printing in his darkroom. Hell, we often saw him on the streets in the city walking with a camera around his neck. 

Any of these look familiar? Perhaps you studied  photography with one of these as your textbook. Henry is the author of over thirty books.

The new book?  Thick with pictures and content and a great teaching tool about what makes an artist tick with insight into where ideas come from. 

From "Racing Days" by Henry Horenstein

After attending a recent lecture last month by Henry in Boston to announce the new book, a friend and I got to talking about Henry's work and career. We noted that Henry embodies much of what many of us hold dear to our discipline. Independent and unclassifiable, he works at his own projects with determination and devotion, while being warm, outgoing, funny and affable. Henry clearly loves what he does. This is truly an exceptional photographer and artist and "Shoot What You Love" gives us access to the pictures, the stories behind them and shares the experiences and wisdom of a career's worth of photographing. 

"Shoot What You Love" by Henry Horenstein: not to be missed.

"Shoot What You Love" 208 pages, hardcover, $40 available Amazon, etc.

Topics: Books,Review

Permalink | Posted December 29, 2016