Martin Parr at Boston College


I saw the superb show of the work of the British photographer Martin Parr this past week at Boston College's McMullen Museum and recommend it highly. Fellow photographer and teacher at Boston College Karl Baden has brought us a large sample of Parr's photographs made over his career. Cleanly and with excellent text that contextualizes the work, we go from the late 70s up through 2005 or so and are shown specific projects along the way, from early days with small analog black and white prints up through medium format large color inkjet prints. We are taken on a journey of Parr's interests, including many pictures from Ireland, unflinching and in-your face-pictures of demonstrations, family get-togethers, people on the street, a visit by the Pope, and photos of monuments and famous tourist destinations made with a wry sense of humor.

Excuse the hyperbole but I found the work in the show to be a confirmation of photography itself. Parr's pictures affirm that, although it may feel like the world is going to hell in a handbasket, there is good in the world, for his spin is mostly positive.  That things aren't perhaps as bad as they seem. 

Parr's role as acute observer takes great discipline and this show presents us with work that speaks to his efficiency and wonderful ability to find things that hold our interest in unexceptional circumstances. For Parr, pictures are everywhere. 

Parr is a commentator on our human condition, with a decidedly British take. 

Take a practiced and perceptive photographer, put him/her in front of places of interest peopled with a broad cross-section of humanity,  add in some wit, irony, a strong sense of design and a fine color sensibility and you might have Martin Parr, clearly one the very best working today. I only wish the show gave us more current work, for what is there seems to stop about 2005.

Many photo shows these days leave me angry and frustrated, feeling that photography has lost its way, missed its inherent capabilities and attributes while being taken up by artists that bend it, mold it to make imagery that I don't have a clue about, personal and political pieces that I don't relate to. But there is wonderful work to see. So far this year I have seen this and the Frank Armstrong show at Fitchburg Art that confirm that photographs are being made that are superb.

Thank you to both Frank Amstrong and Martin Parr and the curators that brought them to us. 

More info?

https://www.bc.edu/bc-web/bcnews/art-and-culture/fine-arts/mcmullen-presents-martin-parr.html

through June 5

Topics: Commentary

Permalink | Posted May 16, 2022

For Sale

This may come as a great shock to you, but my work is for sale. I know, you've been reading the blog for some time and it never occurred to you but yes, the blog is part of a marketing strategy intended to increase awareness of my work and to promote sales to collectors, galleries, curators in charge of museum purchases for their permanent collections and finally, for exhibitions where the work would be for sale.

And yes, if you've seen something of mine here or on the site or in person at an exhibition that you like, what better thing than to reach out to inquire about buying it? 

Easy. This can be handled in person by you coming to the studio in Acton, MA or, if you're not local, work can be shipped to you.

The blog will continue, BTW. I have no big plans to end it. I am thankful to you, dear readers, for your continuing subscriptions. I know many of you have been with me for a very long time. 

The preferred method for inquiring about purchasing my work is to email or call my daughter, Maru, at Insight Arts Management:

m.rantoul@gmail.com

978-496-4901

She can make an appointment to see the work in person and/or make arrangements to send it to you.

Note: Some of the earlier black and white series have limited availability as 

they were made in pre-digital days on film and printed by me in the darkroom. Therefore, the originals are not easily reproduced and series works cannot be broken up as they are in narrative form. This is one of the downsides to working serially in that, in order to maintain series cohesion, the prints must remain as a set.  In recent years I have not broken up these series and if one goes into a collection, all the prints must go.

If interested, you may, of course, buy a whole original series or, I can sell you a high-quality inkjet print of the scanned original. The former? Expensive. The latter: much less so.

All my work since about 2005 has been digital capture and made as archival inkjet prints. Therefore, easy to make and reasonable in cost. I do edition work, btw. Having something infinitely reproducible just doesn't make sense.

Interested?  The clock keeps ticking and I am genuinely old now at 75. Who knows what's ahead but I am in good health and happy to show you work if you    come to my studio in Acton. Or, if you can't do that, look over the imagery on the Gallery page of the site:

www.nealrantoul.com

If you see something you like, reach out and we will discuss it. I look forward to hearing from you.


Topics: for sale

Permalink | Posted May 7, 2022

Moses Lake 2

Odd. You would think the short series called Moses Lake 2 would be preceded by Moses Lake 1. But it is not.

Let me give you a little context. In the 90s I was steaming on several fronts. Still shooting in black and white 8 x 10, I was making yearly trips to photograph in the wheat field country of the Palouse in eastern Washington. But I was also shooting with the Superwide Hasseblad mostly handheld.

In those days I often would fly west to Seattle or Portland and drive back east in a rented car to Colfax or Pullman, which served as a base for ten days or two weeks of photographing in the wheat fields.

Washington is a big state and, once over the Cascade Mountains, it is dry and desert-like. Inevitably, after several of these trips driving east I was going over the same territory. Driving on Rt 90 I would go right through Moses Lake, a small town in the middle of the State. In the mid-90s the town was experiencing a housing boom. As I was photographing all sorts of housing in those days, I stopped to photograph one development under construction where, I learned, the builder was able to put up a house a week.

Moses Lake 2 was the 2nd time I'd photographed homes under construction in Moses Lake.

The two prevailing characteristics were the water tower and the incredibly black pavement which had just been rolled out, in fact, hot under my feet.

I made Moses Lake 2 prints on Kodak Polymax paper 11 1/2 inches square. They are over matted to 16 x 20 inches and are available for viewing at my studio in Acton, MA by appointment: here.

Oh yes, Moses Lake 1? Didn't make the cut.

Topics: Black and White,Analog,Northwest

Permalink | Posted April 24, 2022

Life Changing

Not the first photograph. Certainly not the last. From 1972. But the first photograph that really changed my sense of the weight and power a photograph of mine could have. What something became as a photograph. How a physical thing was transformed into something else that had presence. 

Made in my second year of grad school and working on my thesis, which was from junkyards. 

I believe that was the first photograph I'd made that was transformative. Just a hood ornament on an old rusted-out wreck sitting year after year in a junkyard in East Greenwich, RI. Not so important, right? Not something newsworthy or of a major event but for me, earth-shaking. I felt its weight, its personal importance as a sort of canary in a coal mine, sitting there as a test perhaps, begging me to understand that because of this one print, my world had changed. That the bar had been raised and my understanding of my relationship to the medium of photography was now more firmly defined than before. I knew my place better or maybe had found my career with this one photograph. To a young student who had never found much purpose in my life, this was big.

The print? The original sits now in my studio at perhaps 7 inches square and is mounted and matted to 11 x 14 inches. It is signed and dated as: "1972". Of course, you'd never know it was special unless you read about it here or it came up over a beer.

Over my career, I've been asked, "What is your favorite photograph you've made?" What a simply preposterous question. But if forced to answer this one above would be on the list.

Do you have one like mine? A photograph that pointed the way for you or shook your world? When did you make it and under what circumstances? Do you have it out or where it can be seen? Does the memory of making it come flooding back when you see it? Does your family know it and do your loved ones know how important it is to you?

Topics: Commentary

Permalink | Posted April 22, 2022

1978 NEA Application

Going back. Way way back. 1978 grant application. One of two key grants back then: The Guggenheim and the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts).

As American citizens and individual artists, we could apply for the NEA using our  photographs as an application. This was a granting program initiated and signed into law by President Johnson in 1965. The individual grants are long gone now, as they went down a path of controversy to elimination. Look up Jesse Helm, Piss Christ and Robert Maplethorpe for more info. In 2017 President Trump tried to deep six all federally funded grants in the arts.

At any rate, I applied. We all did.. I'd started teaching at Harvard by that year and was pretty pumped about it. Were we presumptuous? Absolutely!  I was five years out of graduate school.

I'd spent the previous summer traveling in Europe so included a couple of those in the application. I was working in 35mm black and white infrared in those days, hand holding a Leica M4 with 21 mm Summicron and 35 mm Zeiss lenses. I toned the prints. I bulk-loaded the film and changed the film in a changing bag as the felt trap in the film cassettes was not infrared proof.

I was trying to promote the different way the film saw the world and my abilities with it.

My application was 10 disparate photographs, meaning not from one series or body of work.

Part of the reason for being in Europe the previous summer was to go to the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, Germany where thousands had been put to death in WW II.

I didn't get the grant. That year, photographer's grants were $7500 or $10000

Please leave comments below. The full series is now on the site towards the bottom of the Gallery page.

Topics: Black and White,grants,infrared

Permalink | Posted April 18, 2022