Next in Line

Not the first time I've shown my work but a show of a different sort: The Poster Show

Over the years, I have had shows where we've made posters. This show at the Acton (MA) Senior Center, will show some of those as well as posters I've made. Although much of my work is in series, as you know, occasionally I've made a photograph that stands on its own. Some of those have gone into posters, made for friends or to hang in my studio or at home. This show will feature some of those too. We will take orders for posters that are in the show and they will be $50 each.

The poster for the show is then, a poster of a poster. 

Hope to see you at the opening March 19, 4-6 pm.

Permalink | Posted February 29, 2024

Today's News

Just quickly, I couldn't help but share this from Petapixel this morning.

Olympus (OM System) with a built-in graduated filter. Newer cameras are going to start including not only this but all sorts of AI. Many of the things that we take for granted our smartphones can do, newer cameras will incorporate. This means a landscape shot of the highlands in Scotland will be enhanced right out of the chute. Will the original un-enhanced image still be there as a reference? Don’t know, maybe not. I for one do not want a camera company interjecting its own controls onto my photograph. Still, I’d be willing to bet that a newer photographer would define the enhanced vs. un-enhanced image as being much better. Slippery slope for sure. Another pin drops in the end of photography as we know it. Ka-ching.

 Clearly a "feature" driven by marketing concerns. Presumably, we'll be able to peel away the AI enhancements as layers to get to the original. I assume some camera manufacturers will promote a more "purist " approach. Leica comes to mind. But in the ever-increasingly tough camera market,  companies will need to add more in-camera options, making the imagery "better" right out of the box.

Topics: Commentary

Permalink | Posted January 30, 2024

I remember the time when part 2

This is the second in a two-post piece on my screwup one day photographing the Black Water Dam in southern NH in the late 80s.

I packed the gear in the back of the car and began to drive out to the highway. I thought I might drive into Manchester, a nearby city, as I knew that there was a camera store there. Maybe they would have the Bogen connector plate I needed. Maybe the day wouldn't be a total wash and I could go back to Black Water Dam to photograph.

I drove into town, parked on a side street, got out of the car, and, as I was crossing the street heading for the camera store, looked over my right shoulder to see an older, somewhat beaten-up pickup truck parking behind my car. I could see it was a woman behind the wheel and she was parking a whole space behind my car on the street, which was on a hill. Both my car and her truck were facing down the hill. No problem, right? Well, she got out of her truck, locked it and started to walk down the sidewalk as I stood there and watched the truck quietly start to move forward on its own, building speed as it rolled, heading for my car. Surprising how much speed a small pickup truck can gain when coasting downhill in just 15 feet or so. Bang! It hit my car, launching it forward into the car I had parked behind, which now had risen up on my hood. After all this, seeming like out of a movie, there was now complete silence. I ran over to find my rear bumper shoved into the rear trunk of the car, the rear tailgate glass shattered and the front bumper barely visible under the rear of the sedan that now resided halfway up on the hood of my car. There was a little steam rising from the area of the engine of my car and a small puddle forming on the pavement smelling like antifreeze.

I am sure I was disintegrating right there on the sidewalk in Manchester, NH that morning, unable to cope or maybe even comprehend what was going on. Those of you that know me know I am something of a car guy. Obsessively washing and waxing,  vacuuming and detailing. That's me. My car, which was a pristine and impeccable Nissan 300 ZX 2 +2 had now been hit from both ends in an accident that I had witnessed from across the street in what looked like a slow-motion sequence from a film.

If my day hadn't been shot before this little scene occurred, certainly it was done now. There ensued local cops, the pickup truck woman returning to find her vehicle had caused all the commotion, a call to my insurance company, a flatbed tow truck from AAA, a friend offering to come pick me up and get me home with the camera and gear, a decision to have the car towed to a close-by body shop to my home in Cambridge, and then months of repair and repainting before anything close to normality ensued. 

It seems the gods were not aligned in my favor that day. In all the years of photographing, on the street, close to home, on location, and traveling far and wide, I've never been so confused, disoriented, and displaced by a series of events as I was that day.

Topics: Commentary

Permalink | Posted December 30, 2023

I remember the time when

I remember the time when I was on a project shooting at an area called Black Water Dam in Webster, New Hampshire in the late 80s/early 90s. I worked in 8 x 10 in those years in black and white. The project is here

This time was in December before the area would be so covered in snow I couldn't get into it. On an early Saturday morning, I packed up the camera, the tripod, the light meter, the dark cloth, my winter boots, and my film holder bag with 10 holders loaded with Ilford's HP5 film. Off I went.

Webster was about 1 1/2 hours north of Cambridge, where I lived.

I'd been photographing at the dam and the river above it for several months already. This was the type of project that would see me making my pictures through all four seasons. Unique to this particular place was an unpaved access road on each side of the Blackwater River allowing me to get at it for a few miles  above the dam from both sides. As long as it wasn't too muddy or snow-covered, I could photograph the river and the opposite bank pretty much wherever I wanted. This was one of the primary reasons I had decided to make an extended project there.

Of course, Blackwater Dam is very beautiful.

At any rate, on this early winter bright sunny day with no wind, I got to the base of the dam, stopped the car, got the tripod out, extended the legs and reached into my camera bag for the connection plate that would screw into the bottom of the big camera to "marry" the tripod to the camera. It was not there. Where else could it be? It was not already screwed onto the camera. As I became a little frantic, it was not loose in the trunk of my car, in fact, it was not in the car at all and it hadn't fallen out lying on the ground near the car. As it turns out it was where I was not: back home.

Just a little thing, but monumental. I couldn't believe it. A rookie mistake. Professor Rantoul, head of the Photo Program at Northeastern University, recently tenured and an exhibitor of his works in various prestigious museums and galleries had fucked up. 

(As a side note, this later became known with my students as the Rantoul Blackwater Dam fuck up.) It seemed to give them no end of pleasure.

So, I'll stop here, but as we'll learn in the next post, the day is not yet done with me. Was the day ruined? Did I just accept defeat, pack it up, and drive home? I did not.

Stay tuned. 

(note: I originally wrote this piece a few days after knee replacement surgery but thought it wise to delay posting it as experience has taught me that I am not clear headed for a couple of weeks after being knocked out. Good thinking. It is now two weeks.)

Permalink | Posted December 27, 2023

New Review

Good Morning. I assume this will be my last post for a bit as I will have knee replacement surgery on 12/15.

Mark Feeney, the primary photo reviewer for the Boston Globe, has a review out today in the paper that speaks to works I have on display simultaneously at the Danforth Museum in Framingham, MA of the Pulaski Motel series (here

in Virginia and the Wheat work of mine currently at the Acton Memorial Library in Acton, MA 


Here is the pertinent part of his review: 

Also through Jan. 28, the Danforth is showing 14 photographs from Neal Rantoul’s “Pulaski Motel, Virginia” series. In southeastern Viriginia, Rantoul found himself driving past the Pulaski on a very hot, overcast day. This was in 2012. The motel, which had been closed for two years, would soon be demolished. The Ritz it was not.
The 14 black-and-white images are studies in gray. They’re 23 inches by 15 inches, which makes them sizable without being overwhelming. The motel looks evacuated as well as derelict. No one is visible by its doors and steps. There are no cars in the parking lot. Rantoul presents things from the outside — no inwardness here — and that’s just fine.
A couple of photos show rudimentary columns. Did the original owners want to evoke Southern plantation architecture? The sight of these forlorn-looking columns recalls Walker Evans’s differently forlorn photographs from the mid-’30s of ruined plantations in the Deep South.


There are also 14 pictures in “Wheat: New Photographs of the Palouse by Neal Rantoul.” It’s at the Acton Memorial Library through Dec. 28. The Palouse is a grain-growing region in southeastern Washington state. Rantoul has visited there to photograph nearly two dozen times, doing so for more than a quarter century.

Neal Rantoul, "Untitled, #28," 2023.
Neal Rantoul, "Untitled, #28," 2023.NEAL RANTOUL

The photographs are in color, with a dunnish yellow (the fields) and blue (the sky) predominant. People are nowhere to be seen, but the hills and fields have all been shaped by man. The setting is natural without being altogether natural.
The visual elements are simple and basic: sky, shadow, cloud, field. The simplicity is almost austere, but that austerity contributes to the grave handsomeness of these images. Eight of the photographs show the fields from above, the others from the ground. One of those is so close as to reveal stubble. It’s only then a viewer realizes how nearly painterly these photographs are, owing more to color field canvases, almost, than to the detail and specificity of agricultural photography.

I don't know the details of how a story is accepted by the Globe's editors, whether they always cut content for brevity or not. Still, it surprised me that Feeney didn't compare the black and White Pulaski series to the color wheat pictures in Acton. "Pulaski "is not a happy place, an abandoned motel slated for demolition photographed in fetid heat in rural Virginia versus the new wheat pictures which are about as utopian as they could be, pristine and isolated rolling wheat fields in a paradise pocket of the American West. Both in present day America, and both as about as opposite as I can imagine.

It was not my plan to have two series of photographs of mine shown concurrently in two local places but I was very pleased they were, for if you were to see one then the other I believe one would inform the other in truly wonderful ways. But further, I do not make my photographs without purpose or intention. If a series of works of mine have staying power it is because there is a critical view behind the work, a point being made, or a commentary on something being stated.

Topics: Review

Permalink | Posted December 10, 2023