Concord Art

I don't submit much to group shows. If that sounds stuck up, my apologies. A print or two in a show with many others just doesn't do much for my career. But last spring I moved to a new area, a town called Acton, which sits right next to Concord. So I thought it might be good to submit to an open call:

I applied with these three. Ben Sloat, from Lesley College, the show's judge, chose the middle one. At 46 inches across this will take some serious real estate in a gallery at Concord Art that is not large. Many thanks for including me in the show.

These are above Seabrook, NH taken in the fall of 2019.

On a technical note the work that day was made with the Sony A7R MK lV and the Sony 70-200 mm f4 lens. This was the first time I shot aerials with the Sony as opposed to my usual Nikon D850. Would the quality be okay, would they be sharp, will the gyro stabilizer I use help steady the camera?

The answer is: yes. These are some very good files.

Since then I made the switch to the F2.8 70-200mm G Master lens for the Sony.

Update: The show is up, I've been to see it with my family and it looks super. Great light, with my piece sited well too. 

The Concord Art Show is up until March 25. Highly recommended.

For open hours and more information: Concord Art Show

Topics: show

Permalink | Posted March 4, 2021

Warm Day

The winter of 2021 has been hard. Day after day in the teens or twenties, gray and a foot or more of snow lingering. Massive numbers getting Covid and too many dying. Relentless. Add in a scare I had a couple of weeks ago where I thought I had it, no travel, a sameness day after day. In December we understood this was a winter to get through, to keep our heads up and power through, and we have. As have you, I sincerely hope. 

But here we are towards the end of February and we are in a day from heaven: clear skies, little wind and in the mid forties. What a treat!

So I went out to shoot this morning, nothing specific, just to see if I could see. It felt like life out there, the sun on my face, the air clear and bright. 

Bright white, deep blue, shadows, highlights, always good. 

An old pro, out in the field, bringing the camera to his eye, thinking settings, moving around, looking up, looking down, going through motions for the umpteenth time. Has been too much nothing, too little to see, too long, too cold. I know it is still February and it will all close in again, for March pretty well sucks in New England, but to have the one day, sitting on the back deck in the sun, eating my lunch with a dog basking next to me hoping for a crumb from my sandwich. I ask for no more.

An artist, a real artist, shouldn't separate his/her life, categorize and specify interests and activities into categories. It should all mix together, the  mundane the exceptional, the daily and the once in a lifetime, the good ones and the not so good. This mix, this amalgam is what spurs us and what makes up a genuinely creative person, I believe. 

I've just been learning of "habituation" and"individuation", liking the analogy of first learning to drive a car and then it becoming second nature. That is habituation. For in that mode we don't notice much, or we subsume things in order to pay attention to what's on the radio or to carry on the conversation with a colleague at work.  Individuation is singling out, having an acute awareness of all that you see, all that surrounds you. I was always telling my students to notice stuff, to be aware of everything around you, to be a "trained observer". As visual artists that is our stock in trade. For if we don't notice and pay attention we will miss things and we cannot afford to do that. Some  people go through their lives missing a great deal.

I  hope you have enjoyed this one good day, for I am confident that there will be many more in the days ahead.

Get something from this blog? Let me know, your email can spur me on, encourage me to keep this many-year effort going. 

Neal's Email

Topics: Commentary

Permalink | Posted February 24, 2021

After Fred Sommer

In February 2014 I wrote a series of blogs about the time I spent with the photographer Fred Sommer in Prescott AZ in 1979.

#1

https://nealrantoul.com/posts/fred-sommer

#2

https://nealrantoul.com/posts/fred-sommer-day-2

#3

https://nealrantoul.com/posts/fred-sommer-day-3

#4

https://nealrantoul.com/posts/fred-sommer-addendum


At the end of that most incredible of visits, I said goodbye to Fred and his wife Frances, got back in my aging Porsche 914 and drove straight from Arizona to Washington, DC and, effectively crashed. Staying with friends, if memory serves I slept for a night and a day, and then went out to photograph.

What I did was try to assimilate much of what Fred had told me earlier in the week.

If you've followed this blog for a while you know that it wasn't until 1981 or 1982 that I came across the way of working I call "series work." And yet, there I was making photographs that stylistically look much as the Nantucket pictures did three years later or the Yountville pictures did a little after that.

However, these are "immature" in that I knew nothing about linking my pictures together in 1979. I thought of these simply as single pictures reflecting the time and place and little else. 

Next up? I am working on a new offering, a limited edition portfolio. We don't see so much of these anymore but I am going to make a set of photographs of something very special and will announce them here.

Stay tuned!

Topics: Northeast,Black and White,Analog

Permalink | Posted February 11, 2021

Gallery Talk

Gallery talk I had with staff at the Museum about my current show:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?blm_aid=5486600&v=u07bGZkM-yU&feature=youtu.be




Permalink | Posted February 9, 2021

A Loss

No, I haven't lost a loved one to Covid 19, although I know some of you have, and I am apologetic about citing my loss at this time of such incredible human pain and suffering. So, my apologies at the outset.

My loss is of some work that is leaving the fold of being in my ownership and possession for the past 21 years. This coming Friday Maru and I will take three bodies of work to the Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover, MA to be added to their permanent collection.

I  am giving the Gallery two selections from larger portfolios: 6 Paradise CA prints 

and 4 aerial Potash Evaporation Pool pictures from Salt Lake, Utah.

Both of those are digital capture and inkjet prints, meaning I can make new prints easily if needed.

But the third group of photographs are something else entirely. They are a loss for I am giving them to the Addison, original analog prints of images I made in 1999 of some unique rock formations and petroglyphs in Bluff, Utah. There are 17 photographs in the set and there are no other prints if this work in existence.

This must be what a painter or sculptor feels when parting with an original piece. I have friends that do this all the time and they cite that along with the loss comes the sensation of being freed from the weight of something made in the past. I hope so as I am having a hard time letting go of these.

I wrote a post about this work a few years ago: 

https://nealrantoul.com/posts/bluff-utah

Why would I want to give away my art? What possible purpose could it serve to let it go, to donate my work to museums? Another way to think about this is what possible reason is there to hang onto it? Better for works of mine to be in a permanent collection in a climate controlled environment than in a flat file case in my studio. Yes, we are speaking of a legacy. In this case mine. 

Why the Addison? I showed my work several times there, the first time  in 1978! Also, there is older work of mine in their collection from 1982, so this is a chance to update what they have. Finally, the Addison Gallery is a wonderful museum with a rich collection and a long history of featuring photography. Right now they have one of the only sets of prints from Robert Franks' "The Americans" on display.

Additionally, there is this. There is freedom in no longer being encumbered with your artistic past. What you did then that is now gone means no baggage in future efforts. And yes, no less important, you have now externalized your work, put it out there in the world along other works from your colleagues and peers, from a community of artists. That feels good to me. No longer will good work be hidden away. And Bluff is good work.

Long ago, I had this thought that when I got old, I would spend much of my time still alive on work I had made already, hoping that museums and collections might be interested in collecting my photographs. That has come to pass, thank goodness. What an honor to find that museums are interested in having my work. Yes, of course, it would be great to find that they would purchase work, but that is not happening, for whatever reason. So be it. Not to say that in the future my work will remain a freebie. But for now, it is fine.

Last thought in this somewhat loaded post. It is not enough to make the work. Yes, that is crucial, but you need to nurture it, to massage it so that it is the best it can be. Then shepherd and manage it to see that it is respected, valued, and placed with an eye to its longevity.

Maybe someday you can go to the Addison and see some of my work from the collection.

Like this blog? Let me know: email

Topics: Black and White,Analog,Southwest

Permalink | Posted February 3, 2021