Topic: Best of (3 posts)

Best of 2021

A random selection of this year's favorites:

What a year. Feels almost totally dysfunctional. Looking back, it seems I did shoot quite a bit, mostly locally, probably like you.

It was the first winter in my new home in Acton, so I explored quite a bit nearby.

American Heritage Museum, Stow, MA

That gets us through until late April so clearly this will need another post.

One more:

Remember, you can now write a comment. Please do that.

With wishes for a truly wonderful year in 2022 and the sincere hope you will stay healthy...

Topics: Best of

Permalink | Posted January 1, 2022

Hits 2019

In the early days of this blog, I posted a "Hits 2012". I didn't keep it up in every subsequent year but am doing one for 2019. So, here it goes.

A reminder...these are the ground rules: 

I have chosen photographs made by me that fit outside the context of portfolios or series already made. This means no "Paradise Valley Trees" , no "Martha's Vineyard Aerials", no "Washed Out", and no "Wheat", among others (all recent series). In a sense, those are already published, printed and some will even be in exhibitions soon. I am posting here pictures that are "incidental" in that they fit outside the normal scheme of things for me. As photographers, I think we all do this, we make photographs that we think are good but don't fit into existing categories, series, or bodies of work. That's what "Hits 2019" is for. I used to make shows this way, mount a show that exhibited single pictures next to single pictures, simply chosen to be printed, matted and framed because they were good enough to stand on their own.

This was made on Martha's Vineyard last spring during a mostly bad weather time when I obsessively photographed this freshwater stream running into the Atlantic Ocean.

Also from Martha's Vineyard last spring

This was from the mannequins shoot in Oakland CA last January. A body of work I still have to pull together.

For most, a new camera will produce some new pictures and I am no exception. This is from a parking garage in Cambridge.

Rockland, Maine  in September

I am still working on the photographs I made in the Paradise California region in November but here are a couple made while there.

Back on the east coast:

photograph by Neal Rantoul

This last one made in January from a train in the outskirts of NYC in the Bronx reminds me of Robert Frank's photograph taken in a hotel room in Butte, Montana and used in "The Americans".

photograph by Robert Frank

The photo world lost Robert Frank this year and perhaps I can write an homage to one of the very greats for he extended the medium into areas it had never been before. To combine the very personal with such a perceptive instinct is very rare and he did it with his own particular genius. I was honored to meet him in the 80's at MIT. 

Memorial to those killed in the Camp Fire, Paradise, CA 2019

That's it, a snapshot into some of the pictures I made this past year. I hope you've enjoyed them. If so, drop me a "like". Neal's email: email

With best wishes for the holidays and a wonderful new year.

Topics: Best of

Permalink | Posted December 19, 2019

2015: The Year in Review

Since starting the blog a few years ago I have reviewed pictures made over the previous twelve months each December and pulled a few that I think represent the work done over the year. This is this year's review.

2015 was a somewhat different year for me in terms of my photography. A good chunk was taken up in preparation for showing a large body of work at 555 Gallery in September in Boston. Known as the "Monsters" pictures  in the show titled "Wild Thing", the work was photographs of masks, wig forms and mannequins from a now-closed store in Fitchburg, MA called Halloween Costume World. There was a companion catalog for the show.

The catalog has an introduction by Alison Nordstrom.

We also had business cards made, with credit to Moo Cards, a printer that permits cards with a different picture on each.

Kate McQuaid, in a review of the Wild Thing show, wrote this about the Monster's work for the Boston Globe:

Masking reality
Neal Rantoul’s photos of masks in “Wild Thing” at 555 Gallery feel like a goof, but an accomplished and clever one. “Exploring Dora,” for instance, brings us nose to nose with a Dora the Explorer mask, so that its hair becomes a black backdrop for her looming, pumpkin-like face — and suddenly, the benign character has menace.
“Jack” depicts a clown mask, in profile, and the rubbery head stretches disturbingly backward, elongating the face so that, even if you like clowns, you’ll be vexed. “Moment of Introspection” captures Frankenstein’s monster with a decaying nose and shoulders swaddled in bandages. A zombie fills the out-of-focus foreground as if running away from the green fellow, but Frankenstein’s monster doesn’t give chase. He gazes downward, thoughtful as Rodin’s “The Thinker.”

Here's "Moment of Introspection":

Monsters is on the site here.

Over the winter and early spring I was as caught up in the wild winter we had in Boston as anyone else and found myself heading out into it to make pictures, a landscape that was drastically altered and dramatic.

Before the big snow storms came The Baldwinville, MA pictures were made in early January:

The full series is on the site here.

Although South Woods Farm, from Martha's Vineyard, was begun in 2014 it wasn't until I shot one more time in January, 2015 that I could complete the series.

In March I drove to North Carolina to visit with friends at Penland then on to New Orleans where I stayed for two weeks. New Orleans is a fantastic place. I shot kudzu on the way down and on the way back. These are from Georgia:

By the time spring finally arrived I worked on a project to aerially photograph the salt marshes along the north shore.  

These are on my site here.

Although we were beginning to produce the Monsters show, in June I began a long term project photographing at the Medfield, MA State Hospital, which is open to the public, oddly enough. The hospital was for mental patients and is now closed, although access is allowed by the town, which now owns it.

Medfield is about 40 minutes from where I live. The pictures aren't on the gallery page of the site yet as the project is not complete. I hope to finish this one in 2016.

In August I photographed at the annual Sand Sculpture competition at the beach in Revere, north of Boston.

After delivering the work to 555 Gallery for the Wild Thing show in September I flew to Salt Lake City, Utah for a week to photograph the Great Salt Lake from the air. The lake houses potash evaporation pools for mining companies making fertilizer. They look like this:

This is a landscape like no other with bright colors and cracking pools of evaporating salt and minerals. They are on the site here

And finally, although hip replacement surgery slowed me down a little in November, I started photographing again close by in Cambridge in December at a new skate park.

That just about wraps the year up. As I write this we are a couple of days away from Christmas. Are there bodies of work not yet realized? Oh yes, absolutely. Many. Maybe during those long cold days of winter I will get to work on some and bring them from TIFF files to print form.

If you are a photographer too, I wonder if you've done this? Gone through the year's work to see what it looks like, how the past year's work fits into your overall career.  Can you see trends, proclivities, flash backs to earlier works, connections made from an earlier self to a present day self, trends or clues towards work to make in the future?

Me? As I get older I find myself working in more specific groups of pictures and not just going out to photograph in an unknowing and general way as much. When younger it was common for me to just pack up the gear and head out to see what I could find. While I loved that, it looks a little random to me now, although I still do it.  A couple of weeks ago I drove out to Brimfield, MA to see what I could find. I am working with a new camera, which is always difficult for me, and wanted to compare the older to the newer, using each to make pictures comparatively. 

I know some people hate these "best of the year" lists. I get that they seem arbitrary, that the construct of looking over your shoulder at the end of each calendar year is a contrivance. On the other hand, it is a good thing to look over what you've done to learn perhaps better when to continue doing something but also what not to do in the next twelve months. This becomes an opportunity to learn from what you've done and also what you haven't done.

Finally, let's be clear; I make no assumptions. I am thankful for the chance I've had to make my work this past twelve months and very much hope I can do more work in the next twelve. I hope this for you too. 

With wishes for wonderful holidays. 

Topics: Hits 2012,Best of

Permalink | Posted December 22, 2015