Topic: Series (23 posts) Page 1 of 5

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

Fences and Walls 1979

I have been talking about and showing my series pictures lately in a variety of presentations so they are very much on my mind. While I usually start with the Nantucket pictures made in 1981 (here) there is a series I made earlier that in some ways can serve as a predictor of things to come. It is called "Fences and Walls" and is the topic of this post.

To recap: I finished gradate school at RISD in 1973 and by 1978 I was teaching at New England School of Photography in Boston. By the fall of 1979 I was teaching at Harvard University as well. I made pictures constantly, almost without discrimination, of anything that seemed remotely interesting. I made major photo trips to Europe, to Bermuda (twice), to the American Southwest, and worked locally.

Looking back at that chaotic time, I remember thinking I was out of control, passionate about now being a career teacher and artist but not able to bring clear focus to any coherent presentation or method. One day while in Newport, RI on a photo trip in the early spring I made a discovery. 

I found I was frequently pointing my camera at walls and fences, separators and barriers we use to edge our property or to keep people out and our pets and children in.

This was the beginning, I believe, of my ability to understand what I was making intuitively. 

By combining the new pictures I was making and sifting through pictures I'd made in the past year or so I found a common thread of a preoccupation I'd had that I hadn't been aware of. This was an odd sensation, to find something in my work prevailing that I hadn't seen before and taught me something about the importance of the subliminal and the need to search our own work for answers. It also helped me slow down and look harder at the pictures I had made rather than only shooting and printing at this frantic pace of making but not looking.

The series also split into two other interests, full and empty, as a subset.

If you've followed along with my writing on other series, such as Nantucket, Hershey, Oaksdale, Yountville, Portland, Solothurn (all searchable by name on this blog), you know that we are looking at the series that predates all those others. 

Whether Fences and Walls can really be used as the foundation series of pictures to the subsequent ones will be for better minds than mine to determine.

But I do believe that in my oeuvre of series works, Fences and Walls needs to be counted as a player in the mix. 

One note here: I don't regard Fences and Walls as a contributor to my idea of "narrative" in my work. That wasn't a concept that had coalesced yet. It would take the Nantucket pictures to make that happen, still two years away. 

The full series is now on the site, way down at the bottom of the Gallery page, as it is arranged chronologically from the earliest to the latest.

As always, I welcome your comments:  Neal's email

Topics: Black and White,Series,Analog,Northeastern

Permalink | Posted April 17, 2017

Lugano 1982

Ever hear of it? Lugano is in southern Switzerland, not far from the northern Italian border. Though it is in CH, its history is that is was part of Italy and so the primary language is, you guessed it, Italian. It is a sort of paradise, being south enough to have palm trees along the lake with a view up to snow covered mountains in the Alps, a couple of hours away.

Why Lugano? Because my ex wife and the mother of my daughter Maru is from there. Though we divorced 20 years ago, back then we went to visit frequently, staying with her parents above Lugano in a little town call Breganzona.

We were there over the holidays in December, 1981. I'd brought the 4 x5, intending to borrow a car and get out to shoot in the area. I did just that, coming back to Cambridge in January to make prints. There was no real intention to make a narrative here, just to photograph what interested me and to end up with a portfolio of prints from the best negatives. The full portfolio is in my studio and the prints are about 11 x 14 inches, toned with selenium, mounted and matted archivally on 16 x 20 museum board.

Here goes.

I don't know that there is always wisdom in hindsight but my take on these is that the pictures mix some rather chaotic places with some of real serenity. 

My wife's parents had a swimming pool housed in its own building across the yard from the house. I remember I spent a lot of time there, swimming, reading and photographing. I was reading books like "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" by Annie Dillard and probably "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Racing" by Robert Pirsig in those days.

In Lugano it could snow one day and then you might wake up to this, rising  temperatures, melting snow and brilliant sun.

The pool and the main house are all gone now, along with my in laws. He to a brain tumor in his late 50's and she just last year. The property fell into disrepair after he died and has been sold, most likely to be torn down for apartments or condos. 

As an aside, one of the mounted prints has this on the back:

presumably because I had it in a show at some point.

My, how things have changed.

Topics: Black and White,Europe,Series,vintage

Permalink | Posted December 16, 2016

11 Days Out

I am now 11 days out from having surgery to replace my left hip (the right hip was done back in November). One of the after effects of having all the drugs in you from surgery is that several of your systems are also put to sleep. For instance, your digestive track may need a kick start to begin working again. So then you are being given drugs to counteract other drugs. In there you sort of lose your mind. Not as though you go crazy but my  mind was reduced to working in a far more primal state: survival. Days are simple; eat, stay warm, drink fluids, rest. Not because you're  being told to do this but because this is all you've got. Gradually I did begin to surface, to be able to think. At about 6 days out I found myself sitting at my kitchen table one morning all alone crying my eyes out. Was I sad, was there some big tragedy on my life? Nope, just strong a wave of emotion coming to the surface having been suppressed by drugs due to surgery. I remember being really happy at this outburst, this catharsis that meant I was able to feel again.

Over the past few days, real thought has been possible. Hell, I couldn't turn thought off. Ideas springing forth, as though some tap had been turned on. Pictures to make, new ways of working to explore, places to go to photograph, past projects to print, or reprint or to bring to the front. In fact, so many ideas that I have to be careful I don't act on them in haste. I could find my condo for sale, a new car in my garage, new lenses arriving even though I have bills to pay, me owning a vacation home someplace. 

But in terms of pictures, these from 2012 popped right up:

In a three or four print series

From a small northern Italian coastal town called Forti Di Marmi.

Painted rental changing rooms on a private beach. Why? Good question. Not the deepest of pictures I have ever made but perhaps more of a sensual delight; strong colors, a fast rendition due to the sweep to the railings and ceilings pulling back to a flat plane, a sense of constancy in design within the group, variety within a common theme. At any rate, there they were demanding my attention, these pictures made  in 2012. The current plan is make large prints of them. I think of them as a sort of celebration.

While I can't show you where I am headed I can show you what I am working on as past projects to fully realize, or in one case, re-realize work made in the past to bring it to the front.

Stay tuned. 

12 Days Out coming up next. 

So, despite that I am still using crutches to walk around and not driving yet, I don't think I'd be going out much to shoot today anyway. This is what my outdoor thermometer said this morning.

OMG!

Topics: Foreign,Color,Digital,Series

Permalink | Posted February 14, 2016

Baldwinville, MA 2015

This is the second time we've shown work on the site by the young photographer Marc S. Meyer. Marc lives near Baltimore but photographs frequently in New England. To read more about him and his work go here.

Marc writes about the photographs:

I’d seen this abandoned building from the road earlier in the fall and marked it on the car’s GPS so I could return. I picked a day in early January where the cloud cover was heavy and there was snow in the forecast. When I arrived the air was still and electric with the coming storm. I worked for several hours in the cold, returning to the car to warm up and look over the pictures on the back of my camera that I’d just made. There wasn’t a soul in sight, only the occasional sound of a car going by on the two-lane road nearby.


The sky was important as it would serve as the drama needed for the pictures but I also wanted it to have visual weight. This was tripod work, as I would combine several frames of the same scene into one image later on in post processing.

Of course, no artist knows if he will be successful if an image or a few of his images will be seen as important in a larger context. One can only hope. But these few large photographs are intended to represent the first half of the equation or analogy, if you will. Man made structures decay if left on their own outdoors. Fact. This large warehouse made to take care of a region’s municipal needs outside the small town of Baldwinville is also a fact. But we seem to have no problem making something, using it and then discarding it when we no longer need it. We do it every week when we take out the trash.

As a large issue this building sitting empty and forlorn outside a small town in rural Massachusetts serves for me as an example of skewed priorities. Used and thrown away.
On a smaller issue and on a more personal scale, I have always found photography’s ability to beautify fascinating. I would doubt if “beauty” came up much when the architects and/or engineers were designing this building. But there it sits; empty, discarded, dismissed and beautiful.


This work is deceptively simple, almost minimal. The prints are large, at 30 x 24 inches and unusual in their depth and tonal range. 

Assigning such nobility to what is, in effect, a piece of junk is of course Marc's point.

But then he takes us inside the structure, almost as though we're headed into a tomb.

and ends with:

That's it. The series seems to end even though it just got started. No frills here. I've said this before but: get in, get it done and get out. That's what Marc did here and the reduction serves the overall purpose of the group of pictures: the force of their impact, their remarkable color palette, their emphasis on containing information both within and without the building.

Marc Meyer seems to be moving on from his rather straight representation of the small world of the Beach Club pictures to a more interpretive and subjectified manner of expression. It's as though he is using the warehouse building in these pictures as a springboard to reflect his changing views and perhaps, to flex his muscles. 

Does it work? Do you find these photographs compelling? Let us know at: Neal's Email

Marc's work is now available for viewing at 555 Gallery in Boston. The Beach Club portfolio and this one (Baldwinville, MA) are in the gallery's flat files. I urge you to take a look at the prints in these two portfolios as this is very strong work. A blog is a wonderful thing but used as a vehicle to look at art? It is is just perhaps the first step. Prints are king.

Topics: Color,Series,Marc S. Meyer

Permalink | Posted January 22, 2015