Topic: Road Trip (6 posts) Page 1 of 2

SABBATICAL

More accurately: sabbatical leave. As a professor for thirty years I was fortunate to have four one semester sabbaticals and a year-long one.

Very often people outside of academia don't know how it works to be a professor. Sabbatical leaves are commonly awarded to professors in universities to conduct research free from teaching responsibilities. Eligibility is determined by rank, therefore adjuncts are usually not able to apply. Applications for leaves are handled by a committee which reviews applications and awards sabbaticals on merit. They are one of the perks of the job. Frequency varies but commonly, it is every seven years.

Outside of academia sabbaticals also occur occasionally in business and, of course, some people give themselves a "sabbatical" to take a leave to do something they can't do while working. The traditional sabbatical, however, is different in that it includes getting paid while you do it. Like I said, one of the perks.

It is difficult for me to express what these leaves meant for me for the years I ran the Photography Program at Northeastern University. Having the sabbatical in the fall or spring semester meant that I was only at school one semester for that year as it butted up against the summer when I usually didn't teach. Making pictures, practicing my discipline, was always a struggle while I was working. Squeezing in the time to go photographing or the endless hours needed in the darkroom was hard when the job and my family needed my attention. Sabbaticals freed me from one whole large component of my life and were proposed and awarded to support my making art.

Got something you'd like to do? Someplace you're dying to go? Feeling hemmed in by work? Part of being the creative person you are is to be creative in all aspects of your life, not just in the art you make.  Think about how you can make things happen, get a project funded and/or supported, there are many ways. My first sabbatical was called a "pre-tenure" sabbatical in that it was designed so support assistant professors in their efforts to publish or do their research before applying for tenure, a critical time. I applied, got a one semester leave but was not awarded a grant I applied for. So I had no funding to support my rather elaborate plan to travel around England and Northern Scotland with an 8 x 10 view camera making pictures. So, I ended up driving through the American West in my parents motorhome for two months. Although I did fine and made good pictures I learned from that one that a sabbatical leave with no funding isn't so great. Work out the support for your sabbatical before you take off.

As I got tenured and became more senior and knew the system at my university better I was able to be away  more on various projects. It helped that my daughter was away at school by then as well. No longer married, I was free go more often. Funded research trips to study other photo programs, or study new technologies, give lectures, talks, presentations, have exhibitions of my  own work and go to conferences became things I did more. In each of these situations I would photograph wherever I was. I had a discretionary budget, travel stipend and a network of internal grants I could apply for, and did succeed frequently. This meant I needed to have someone back at school holding down the fort that I could trust. Luckily, I had someone for many years in Andrea Raynor in that she exuded capability and excellence in all that she did. In fact, she's still at Northeastern and is the Department Chair.

Did I work the system? I did. Did it benefit me and my work? Yes, it did. Was I dishonest, lining my own pockets with my school's funds, or travel elaborately off the school, buy gifts on their dime or provide these perks to colleagues? No, I did not. 

I also learned this lesson. One of my colleagues, a senior graphic designer, told people she would be in Hawaii the whole time she was on her sabbatical. In reality she stayed home and worked on new projects. She knew she'd get called in to avert some crisis in her discipline if people knew she was close by. Smart. I learned that you must go away in order to cut the thread. 

My first big trip away to photograph was in 1979. I wasn't a professor yet, and told NESOP (New England School of Photography) I wouldn't be teaching in the spring. As I was  teaching at Harvard too, after the fall semester finished  in January I was free to take off for the Southwest. This was a self imposed sabbatical of indeterminant length to go make work. I needed to get south from Boston as it was winter and I had friends I could stay with in places like Santa Fe and Houston as this was a trip on a shoestring. 

Can you picture this? A 33 year old 6'2" Neal crammed into a loaded and aging bright yellow mid engined 2 liter Porsche 914, with rusting heater boxes and paint peeling off the hood, gone for three months, driving endless hours first to New Orleans, then to Houston meeting with Anne Tucker, then Santa Fe staying with my friend Ed Ranney, then Tempe and Tucson to visit with Harold Jones and Todd Walker,  Prescott to see Fred Sommer, photographing daily, back home again with a few days in DC. Me, a box of prints, camera gear, tripod and some clothes. And bags and bags of exposed film when I got home.

Want to see some of the work I made from that trip? On the site: here.

Sabbatical. Take one if you can.

Topics: Road Trip,Black and White,Vintage,Analog,Commentary

Permalink | Posted May 2, 2017

Short Road Trip

After what seemed like an endless winter that included a sinus infection that lasted forever and three Three Amigos supper parties at the studio that were absolutely wonderful but also a lot of work, several new locally sourced series of photographs, including the big one called Shrink Wrapped, and various other things that kept me local I am back on the road again on a short six day road trip to Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Why those? I could get to them in a day or so, didn't know them and they were a little south and inland, meaning it would be warmer and greener this first week of April.

I am having a blast, although looking out my hotel window in downtown Pittsburgh just now it is raining. 

My first leg was to drive all day Monday so as to arrive Tuesday morning at Falling Water, Frank Lloyd Wright's 20th century masterpiece of modern architecture, for a two hour tour. This was wonderful, informative, thorough and allowed photographing. Rain's got to be a player this time of year and, in fact, my Falling Water day it was raining the whole time, which only made it better.

The picture on the left is of Mr. Kaufman senior, the original owner of the house.

I'd seen the house in the late 70's before the new welcoming center was built and the sagging end hanging out over the stream was reconstructed in 2003 with high tension cables imbedded below the living room floor. I learned on this trip that the house is now seen by 181,000 visitors a year!

What a way to kick off spring. Highly recommended but get your reservations in as this is a very popular spot. If you need to get to the area the night before as the long tours are at 8:30 a.m. know that there isn't much of anyplace to stay at nearby. I spent the night before going in Donegal, about 30 minutes away in an undistinguished but adequate Days Inn.

Next, after two nights in Pittsburgh with some sun I am driving to Baltimore today in the rain.

Topics: Road Trip,Digital,Color

Permalink | Posted April 6, 2017

There's No Place Like Home

(Note: this is "from the vault" in that it is a blog I wrote but never published after returning from a road trip to New Orleans in March.) 

In the classic film the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy recites this phrase over and over again while clicking her ruby red slippers:

"There's no place like home, there's no place like home".

Photograph © by Neal Rantoul from the "Monsters" work soon to be shown at 555 Gallery in Boston.

I don't have any red slippers and even if I did they probably wouldn't get me home again but I am just back now from being on the the road the past 23 days and driving 4596 miles. Funny, I couldn't wait to leave in early March, feeling pent up after the brutal winter we've had, but I couldn't wait to be home again the past few days. I left New Orleans on Saturday and arrived home Wednesday. 

With so many road trips made over the years this one felt both familiar and foreign. Some general observations while driving all those miles:

-Route 81 is a major cross country corridor totally dominated by trucks 

-There are very few interesting cars on the highway these days (note: I was driving in mid March. Might be different in nice weather in mid summer.)

-Just about everyone drives about 80 mph most of the time

-It is very difficult to eat well while doing a road trip. I did best when booked into a motel for the night. I would search on Yelp for what was nearby then head out to eat.

-GPS, hotel-finding and food-finding Apps, and a radar detector seem like necessities these days. I don't understand how I ever did anything while driving without them and paper maps seem positively primitive.

-Booking in advance, usually the night before, but sometimes an hour or so before checking in has its advantages. I tend to use Hotwire a lot as I don't mind not knowing the name of the hotel as I book. I try to stick with 3 stars as a minimum.

- My car takes high test. The lowest on this trip? $2.55/gal.

-I stop and take a quick nap when groggy. That feeling of zoning out at 80 mph is really scary.

-Although the quality of the sound sucks, Sirius radio helped me through endless boring hours. I listen to some music, some comedy and a few right wing political  stations (I enjoy hearing how the other half thinks. Man, they do hate Obama!). On regular FM in the South you can't go wrong with a little religion, the calls to support the "ministry" are the best.

-The United States of America is really big.

Did I make some good photographs? I like to think so. I know I grew as an artist on this trip, always a good sign. But photography is a humbling vocation, at least for me. Often I think I've hit gold only to find I didn't.

Stay tuned or you could even subscribe to the blog as I begin to work the files and make prints. I will be sharing these with you as I work over the next month or so to bring to fruition work made on my March 2015 Road Trip to New Orleans and Back.

Addendum: writing this now in June. I did make some good pictures, including a new portfolio called "Kudzu" that are at 555 Gallery right now. 

Topics: Commentary,Road Trip

Permalink | Posted June 22, 2015

On The Road Again

Why do I think best when behind the wheel for hours on end? It's got to be the solitude and freedom from the phone (if I turn it off). At any rate, I thought long and hard the past few days. I ended the first leg of my trip to New Orleans in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, where Penland School of Crafts is. I have taught there for the past three summers. I went there to see friends, including Mercedes Jelinek, my former teaching assistant and a current three year artist in residence at the school.

I left Boston about 6 a.m. I hit some snow, some sleet, some freezing rain, plain rain and fog, which looked like it was coming off the snow as the air temperature rose. Next day, starting off in Frederiksburg, VA it went from just below freezing rain to sun and then to the high 60's in NC. Long time since it has felt okay to be outside for any length of time. Looking back at this winter from this distance, I now understand just what a siege it has been for us in the northeast. Seems like a long time too. It is very very good to get away.

Stopped and made a few pictures along the way and in the motel early before leaving Fredericksburg.

This last one proving the efficacy of a PC lens. Don't know what a "PC" lens is? Try searching for "perspective control lens" or "tilt shift lens".

Be well, be happy, make pictures and do good things.

Topics: Road Trip

Permalink | Posted March 8, 2015

New Orleans

Next week I load up the car and head off to New Orleans with a slight detour for a couple of nights in Spruce Pine, NC, where Penland School of Crafts is.

Road Trip! Can't wait.

I have rented a VRBO place in New Orleans for two weeks and will attend the SPE (Society for Photographic Education) national conference the middle of the month. I  am reviewing portfolios for a couple of days at the conference. After the rental is over I will head north up through Tennessee and Kentucky before heading home. 

I don't know much about New Orleans and am looking forward to exploring the area. I think it may be warmer (sic). Here in Boston it is going down to zero tonight.

I am looking forward to making new pictures. I will share as I move around the South.

I am hoping to see less of this:

I wonder if it will be all gone when I get back. I doubt it.

Topics: Road Trip

Permalink | Posted February 23, 2015