It has been too long since I've posted anything here but this one, just quickly, as today is the second open studio afternoon in Acton happening on a rainy day:

Join us if you can.

I'll also be showing this:


which is a video of an interview I did for the "Above" show last year at the Martha's Vineyard Museum. Worth watching if you haven't seen it.

One more: if you can't make it today and are local I would be happy to have you come to look at work. Just reach out: nrantoul@comcast.net

Topics: Martha's Vineyard

Permalink | Posted November 13, 2022

Looking at Photographs Repeat

Since we have a few events coming up that relate to looking at my work I              thought I'd send this along to you:


which speaks about the process of looking at someone's work. While an open studio isn't quite the same as looking 1:1, it isn't far off.

And, this Saturday the Photographic Resource Center is holding a Book Sale. I will be there with a variety of my books:

From 1-5 pm in Cambridge


and then in early November my open studio:

I hope you can join us!

Permalink | Posted October 19, 2022

Open Studio

Hope you can join us in my new studio in Acton for a bite to eat and something to drink and see old and new work. Two Sunday afternoons: Nov 6 and Nov 13, from 1-5 pm both days. Easy to get to, plenty of parking. Got Questions? 617-821-5310

Topics: Commentary

Permalink | Posted October 18, 2022

Cultural Placeholder

Note: I wrote this a few weeks ago when this concept was front and center on my mind. It is not so much there now, after several texts with a close friend where we effectively put it to bed. Read on.)

Going out on a limb here as this is new for me.  

The concept of “Cultural Marker” or “Cultural Placeholder”, the idea is that the work will have its place in our culture in the future. Can our work be used down the line as a way to place it in the time in which it was made? Can future historians turn to it and peg it as being made in a certain time frame? This might entail some tech, looking at photography in this stage of its development, but also aesthetics. I know, pretty abstract. Is there something inherently in the work that speaks to the time in which it was made? For instance, I know that pictures I made in the 70’s look dated and different than pictures I make today. And last, if the work is preserved, why would anyone choose to highlight mine for cultural place holding over someone else’s?

Presumably, there would be a perspective on one's work that pegs it as being from a certain era. For instance, early photography could be a cultural marker by all of it being in black and white before the discovery of color. Of course, there would be many subcategories such as Asian or European origination, technological ones like progressing from glass plate negatives to polyester plastic negatives, or later, to digital capture. But, if your work became used as a cultural marker in the future what was it that made yours unique and stand out as an embodiment of the time, place and culture in which it was made?

Eugene Atget, Paris. Atget, obviously a hugely important cultural placeholder.

Taking this one step further, could work be made for the purpose of it becoming a cultural placeholder? Photographing content that sits squarely in the crosshairs of "now", such as new buildings, or new cars, or new fashion styles? Presumably, a picture of Donald Trump would place us firmly in our particularly twisted and perverse present.

But, where's the art in that, I wonder? As I think this through as I write the piece, there is a "time capsule" character at play. Put present-day content in a sealed box, bury it and direct it to be opened in 100 years. This gets us into the realm of conceptual art, where the idea is as important as or more important than the final result. 

What fun to go down this path. Are your pictures made with the significance of a cultural marker in mind? What are your thoughts about your work's relevance and importance in the overall scheme of things? Safe to say many of us just don't care. We'll be dead and gone so what's it matter? Fine. But who's to say whether it should be preserved or not? 

In the end, I arrived here: I cannot predict or say whether or not my work will have any significance after I am gone, as a cultural marker or anything else. All I can do is the best that I can, never letting shoddy work or sloppy thinking prevail. Keep the work at its highest level, do not compromise standards, and push on with new ideas and new forms of execution. 

You? Comment below.


Topics: Commentary

Permalink | Posted October 2, 2022

A Little Crazy

Well, things got a little crazy the past two weeks or so. First Skye (my granddaughter) came back from camp in NH early due to getting Covid and then Maru (my daughter) got it at the end of Skye's quarantine. We live close enough to one another that I have either been at the studio or off on a road trip.

Last week I took 48 hours and drove to Burlington, VT to shoot. The weather was wonderful and I shot enough to feel like I was successfully renewing earlier days when I was very prolific. I've been printing the past 2 days and there are good pictures, thank God.

Driving northern Vermont's back roads behind the wheel of this

was just plain fun. Do you know that going through Smuggler's Notch the road goes down to one lane but is still two-way? That had its moments. 

Smuggler's Notch, NH

At this point, I ask not so much: well framed, well exposed, cleanly seen and above all enough perception to make pictures that are smart.

I make no excuses but it has been a long time dry. Hard to not be cynical, to not regard photography as something largely in the rearview mirror. Much time in the studio since moving in February; editing, filing, labeling, including contextual information with bodies of work, updating the archives' database, etc. Probably too much, as looking back makes it hard to look forward. With friend Gail here from Toronto a few weeks ago giving me a needed kick in the butt I am looking forward again. 

Put your eye up to the finder, look, compose, wonder, set focus, hold the camera steady, trip the shutter, think: different angle, different focus, lower, higher, needs different time of day or different time of year? After all, what are the chances that as you stand in front of whatever, you are there at the best of possible times? Remote at best. Or, are you in front of it with a camera because you've spotted it at the best of possible times? Who's to say?

Ah, perfection is elusive. And can be dull too. Let a little humanity in there, a little   roughness around the edges, a little something wry, twisted, organic, intuitive and felt. Try not to make past pictures over and over, but be adventurous and provocative.

Wake up! Approach your subject like a hunter, after your prey. Analyze it, think it over, and look critically. You are making photographs, a medium where being done well is exceptionally difficult. Look at the genius of the masters that preceded you. Do you aspire to that? Bring your A game.

The blog now has a comments section. Feel free to respond. Confirms my efforts.

Topics: Northeast,Color,Digital,New Work

Permalink | Posted August 23, 2022