Topic: Martha's Vineyard (23 posts) Page 1 of 5

Gail Hill

My very good friends, the artist Gail Hill (Website) and her husband Hal Kay from Toronto couldn't make it this fall for a visit to Martha's Vineyard. Via emails and text messages Gail's been bugging me to at least share some pictures with her, since she couldn't be here.

So, here we go:

Oak Bluffs, taken two days after the mass shootings in Las Vegas

I photograph most days while here, usually centering on a specific place, and go back over and over. This time it is Oak Bluffs and it is difficult because it is so very familiar. I have been trying to see it with new eyes, as if for the first time.

Gail Hill is a very special person, with an active art career that spans photography and painting as well as playing a large role as a career advisor and mentor  (Creative Self) to many many in Toronto. She also is a wonderful cook.

Menemsha

I occasionally photograph from my kayak, as above. This falls into the "high risk" category but I try to pick calm water and slight wind. This from Poucha Pond above the famous Dike Bridge on Chappaquiddick where May Jo Kopechne lost her life in the car Ted Kennedy was driving one night after a party.

I hope you like these, Gail. Wish you were here.

Topics: Martha's Vineyard,Color,New Work,Northeast

Permalink | Posted October 4, 2017

WET

This is pretty much what I had for three weeks at Martha's Vineyard this spring. This is the table we sit at outside the kitchen on the deck in bright sun at breakfast sipping our coffees. Some of our conversations can go on for hours here with seconds and even thirds on coffee so strong that thirds are only for those made of hardier stuff than me. But today, in contrast, there is a "gale force winds" warning, it is 48 degrees and yes, it is raining.

Mind you, I am not complaining, for a cold rainy day at the Vineyard is a far cry better than the same almost anywhere else, but it has been like dodging bullets the past week or so trying to make pictures. I keep the camera in the car ready to go. Plus the clock is ticking on my time left as I have just a few days. It is always like this, I am beginning to get some work done and I have to leave.  Visual ideas are coming as needed these days and this place is certainly gorgeous. But really, looking at it through the car's window isn't quite the same as being in it. But, like I said, I am not complaining. It has been exceptional as flat light can be gorgeous.  A lot of my landscape work over a long career looks like it was made in optimal conditions, but not this new work:

Update: I  am now back on the "mainland" for two days and fully immersed in a life with traffic jams, lines to wait in, deadlines to meet, people to see, emails to answer, book proofs to review, prints to make and bills to pay. Spending time on the island puts much of your regular life on hold, a benefit in some respects but a detriment in others. The character of the island makes you step off, disengage, take a vacation and recenter your daily life to a different set of priorities. To be honest, for me, much of the mainland goes away. Although, I admit, I did watch the Comey testimony last week, it came through with the peculiar filter of watching something distant as though coming from a different country, amazing to hear what he was saying but not directly important as I  wasn't really there, was I?

Ah, Martha's Vineyard. Thinking of visiting? Try it off season, spring or fall. It is even amazing during the worst weather months January-March although come prepared. Summer is a form of siege on the island, not my favorite.

Topics: Martha's Vineyard,New England

Permalink | Posted June 11, 2017

New From Martha's Vineyard 1

Since I no longer teach I get to spend time every year in the spring and fall at Martha's Vineyard. My parents built a summer home here in 1964. After they died my sisters I inherited it and have kept it. We rent it out during the big tourist months of July and August and use it for ourselves and a large extended family in the spring and fall. (Interested in renting? Go to Vacasa.com and search for the Eliot Noyes house.)This results in me and my camera being here about three weeks in the spring and three weeks in the fall.

Being a compulsive photographer means that I work here, sometimes on specific projects (see Tom's Neck and Spring and Fall or MV aerials) as well as making pictures I see as I travel around the island. It is ironic that we acrue real miles driving from place to place here. The island is 25 miles long and our house is in Chilmark, called "up island" by locals. As the towns, hardware stores, markets, restaurants and much of anything urban is "down island" this means lots of driving. I almost always have a camera and a tripod with me and will often combine a trip to do an errand with a stop to make pictures, especially if the time of day is right or the light is exceptional. One of the advantages of living on an island is nothing is so very far away.

This spring my time here so far has been notable by the weather being really awful: cold and rainy. The Vineyard in the spring, with the island surrounded by cold water, can often be shrouded in fog. 

In between downpours I've been able to get some pictures I like from places like Chilmark Pond, Wasque on Chappaquidick, the cliffs at Aquinnah, Squibnocket Beach, Lobsterville and Long Point in West Tisbury. This in between going for lobster rolls in Menemsha, shopping for ingredients down island we will use that night cooking for guests at home, excursions and showing the island to first time visitors, home improvement projects, trips to the beach, driving to drop friends off at the ferry or to pick them up, driving to buy wine or beer, getting the island car inspected and on and on. A never ending combination of fun stuff and regular stuff on this island just a few miles from the mainland, yet a world apart too. 

The Vineyard has its problems, of course: a loss of industries such as fishing, rich people building mega houses,  affordable housing, a work force more dependent on immigrants each year, too many people in the summers, the Wampanoag tribe at Aquinnah fighting for the right to build a casino. One, for me as a photo-grapher, is that it is far too pretty. Years ago when I was teaching a workshop here, the photographer Bruce Davidson and I had a conversation about the difficulty of photographing on the island. Substantial and relevant pictures in an island paradise? Not so much. In some ways, it is a unique and large challenge to transcend the completely beautiful environment here to say something with your pictures.  This I mostly fail at, but not for want of trying.

Perhaps my most elegant solution a few years ago was to photograph it from an airplane. 

This allows abstraction and a sort of wonder at its sheer magnificence.

I will stop here for this post. But I will continue as so much work has come from here. In Martha's Vineyard 2 I will go back a little into pictures made in past years, some good some not so good and trace my exhibition history here as well.

Sty tuned.

Topics: Martha's Vineyard

Permalink | Posted June 4, 2017

Trees, Sand and Snow

A one paragraph description of a recent day photographing on Martha's Vineyard: 

Book reservation, pack, go regardless of what the weather is up to (mid December-anybody's guess). Stay at friend's, get up at 5 Saturday morning. Catch ferry to Chappaquidick about 7:30, head out to Wasque with a slight delay which was trees hit by sun along the way, the first pictures in the new series. Very cold and still. Shoot mostly stunted oak trees on edge of bluff, epic, go back to car to warm up a couple of times, as hands weren't working. Back over to Edgartown on the return ferry, up to Squibnocket Beach in Chilmark to find very low tide. Look at the beach from the parking lot, get in car, think, get back out of car and look at sand again, thinking "cliche!" Decide fuck it and go down the steps to the beach with a camera anyway and start to shoot, mostly patterns in sand (hence the thinking that goes like this-"this has been done over and over so many times it's ridiculous!"). Shoot shoot shoot sand, stop by Vincent's Beach on the way down island but nothing there, starving, have lunch at 7A in West Tisbury. Done with both Trees and Sand by 4 pm. We go out for pizza and a movie. End of day. Good day. Next morning early drive home.

This was a big day for me, although not unprecedented. Can I pull off two "chapters" from a day's shooting? Let's see. Actually, what I am planning is one series, one portfolio with three chapters, hence the title Trees, Sand and Snow

The third, Snow, being made the next week when back in Boston as I went to Cambridge's skate park under the highway to shoot while it was snowing. This was on a whim really, in between shopping and doing errands. That's not unusual. To throw the camera in the back of the car in the chance I might find something to photograph. Was this a premonition? No, it was simply that I knew from past experience that the weather can affect things for pictures and that to be out in a snowstorm with a camera can be a very good thing. The snow falling on the skate park that morning turned out to be very special, obscuring form with softly falling snow flakes.

There are a couple or more threads that connect these three short chapters in the series, and some things that contrast nicely. Let's see if when shown this all becomes clear to you.

Trees first

Stunted Oaks at Wasque, the very tip of the island of Chappaquiddick, off of Martha's Vineyard.

Next Sand

Squibnocket Beach, Chilmark, Martha's Vineyard

And finally, Snow, here in another one paragraph description.

Know that no one will be there as opposed to normal Saturday mornings when the place is packed, Cambridge's only skate park and still new at a little over a year old. Park car, go around to trunk thinking about focal length, ISO, aperture and then walk over to skate park to find it almost totally obscured by several inches of snow, which is still falling. But then by looking closer see that the park underneath the blanket is sticking some edges, cornices and forms up through the snow. This reminds me of my wheat pictures made in July out west, the waist high and flowing wheat obscuring the ground it grows from. Tricky here as hard to tell where things are and easy to take a header. I try to stick with steps rather than angles and curves. 

One thing is texture, hard to see on your 1 1/2 inch screen on your phone, isn't it?(that's a subtle hint to look at these on your home monitor, the one with a zillion pixels and the retina screen). Another is what I call "planetality", meaning pictures concerned with planes. The plane of the sand or snow as it presents itself to you, either flattened or with depth, whether it lifts up to look like a vertical or if it looks like shot from above straight down. Another is depth and blur and yes sharpness in contrast to blur. The liquid-ness of the form that water takes, fluid and moving, or its movement rendered as a memory of its path back down to the ocean; or frozen and powdery, obscuring almost everything it covers as snow. The tree bark rendered clean and sharp, a history of abuse from wind and ocean air through the seasons, a testimony to survival under extreme adversity, sheer will against the elements. "Stunted Oak" telling all in words what is described in pictures, twisted and knarled but strong and alive. 

Three short chapters, one series. Trees, Sand and Snow. Elemental really. That's the thread, of course. From what we see on line and in many shows and books it is tempting to fall into the "more is best" premise. This confers a kind of monumental character to pictures, implying that each is more grand than the next, a sort of competitive one upmanship that evokes awe at the grandeur and pomp. Sharper, more saturated, more enhanced and better trying to be best. Best contest winner, juror's choice, first place, best of show. Awful really as it negates the real, eliminates the essential and denies contemplation or study.  I am awed by what there is, not by what I can do to something to make it stand out more than the rest. Any ability I have is in just that, being able to see how something is truly miraculous in the everyday or the commonplace. Photography is a medium of selectivity, taking pieces of the world out and putting a frame around them.

Prints are 22 x 17 inches. Want to see some? This is an offer I make often, with literally no takers. Really, that lazy? So very busy? Studio is in Allston, MA. I know, too far away for many of you, but for some, close enough. Hell, you might learn something and enjoy the experience.  If ever there was a test to prove the efficacy of the argument for making prints, Trees, Sand and Snow is it. So far from the small screen. Such a different world of representation. So much better. 

A one paragraph description of coming to my studio to look at prints:

You arrive, access is easy and parking no problem. I greet you. We exchange pleasantries. I offer you a water or an espresso. We settle  in. I ask you what you'd like to see. You tell me. I go and find it, the portfolio sitting on a shelf behind us. I place it on the viewing table, with good balanced light on above us and open the portfolio. There may be a cover statement or there may not be. We begin to look at the prints, arranged sequentially and sitting in a short stack, sliding one print to the side, looking, then sliding another one and so on. Time tends to fold in on itself, the world compressing down into this other world contained in the prints we are looking at. We are transported into these pictures where the white border around each print constitutes a frame into this world in the pictures, containing depth and clarity and revealing details you might not see were you there in front of the real thing, in the actual place. As we finish you may become aware of  sounds or something you hadn't noticed when you arrived as your attention comes back to where we are and what we were doing is now a recent memory. You may choose to have a similar experience by looking at another body of work, or you may not. And so on. We talk a little. We finish and I thank you for coming. You leave.

 Email me: Neal's email

Merry Christmas!

Topics: Martha's Vineyard,Color,New Work,Digital,Northeast

Permalink | Posted December 22, 2016

Presenting at VCS

VCS? What is that? The Vineyard Conservation Society on Martha's Vineyard.

I have been asked to speak and show slides of my aerial photographs of the island on June 29th. VCS is a long standing conservation non profit on the island and responsible for countless lands saved and preserved. This is a real honor for me. 

BTW: While you may not be able to make it to the talk, my work of aerials from the Vineyard is now represented by the Granary Gallery in West Tisbury.

Topics: Martha's Vineyard,Aerials

Permalink | Posted June 7, 2016