Topic: Black and White (80 posts) Page 1 of 16

Ghost Town

Odd really. Downtown Boston over this past weekend. For someone who likes to photograph cities without people, perfect.

But what a reason for being vacant! Coronavirus changing our world.

I can't help but think of the photographs I made in downtown San Jose CA in 2018 in comparison. Also mostly empty but not due to some apocalypse, just an early Sunday morning in March.

San Jose

San Jose

San Jose

Boston yesterday was cold, windy and empty.

I think of these being made right now in this crisis as loaded,  charged with the weight of our societal predicament, our world being changed in profound ways.

As a kid,  growing up during the Cold War, I was fascinated and horrified by films like "On The Beach" and "Red Desert", depicting empty city streets, a world devoid of human beings after the nuclear holocaust. 

An empty city is an easy "get" for a photographer to comment on our current situation. Making pictures of an absence or a lack of something is an old ploy, a teacher's effort to try to push students to deal with making "something out of nothing". 

If you've followed the blog for a while you know I have been photographing the effects of disasters for several years. These include the obvious ones such as Paradise, CA and the mudslides in Montecito, but also more subtle series such as Half Mast Oak Bluffs, made in reaction to the shooting in Las Vegas a few years ago. These new photographs of downtown Boston fit into that mold.

It is the sheer scale worldwide that is so staggering about our current disaster and so very unprecedented. For most of us, the fires in California or Australia, the Katrina or Puerto Rico hurricanes, the tsunami in Japan and so on were "over there", terrible but not in our town, not on our street. This is different. This is everywhere.

Stay healthy, heed the CDC's guidelines (not so much our president!), go for walks and bike rides in areas where there are few others. We'll get through this. My heart goes out to all of you in this very difficult time.

Topics: Black and White,New Work

Permalink | Posted March 23, 2020

Stuck

Stuck at home, along with everyone else. Thank goodness I have photography. I am writing this the day after Governor Newsom required everyone in California to shelter in place. I wonder if my state, Massachusetts, will follow suit.

At any rate, ever since we had our poster party at the studio in February I have been obsessed with making posters of my photographs.

Let me see if I can explain why. For many many years, I have made my work mostly in series. When printed, these end up in a portfolio box, often with a title page, sequenced and numbered, sitting on a shelf with other boxed sets from the same year or two. Undoubtedly some photographs in a particular series are standouts, some are linking images from something to something, some are introductory, some act as bridges and some are leading toward a conclusion. That is the way I work. These are photographs made in narrative form.

All well and good.

But, what happens to a standout image from a series? What happens to the one or two that could stand alone? Would I separate, show or sell a single image from a series? Well yes, but with reluctance. When a museum acquires work from me I most often try to make the sale with the museum purchasing a whole series.

Up comes the idea of posters: mine are beautifully printed, nicely laid out (either by me or a real designer), printed on demand and affordable. Usually 24 x 30 or 32 inches. They sell for 50 bucks. 

Partially marketing, partially publicity, partially increasing name recognition, partially getting my imagery into peoples' hands cheap, simple enough. And, it helps solve the problem of how to make a single image stand on its own.

We know how ubiquitous posters are. Go to your insurance agent, your bank, your medical facility, your lawyer's office. It's posters. Sometimes terrible and sometimes quite good.

How good are these? Really good.

I've got a problem though. I can't stop making them. I just made a new one yesterday. I love laying them out, using color picker in Photoshop, clicking and dragging, making a test print, tweaking the file or changing the background color and then final printing the new poster, using an image or a group of images no one's ever seen before. 

I must have over 20 by now. 

Want one or two (or three or four)? Easy. Email me: here, telling us which poster(s) you want. We will print them, roll them up and send them to you in a tube. You can mail us a check or give us a credit card # for payment. We will charge you $50/poster and a few bucks for shipping.

 I put all the posters up on the site (www.nealrantoul.com) so you can see what is available. This project is adding a little democratic process and entrepreneurial spirit to the purchase of art. 

Because of our unique state with the coronavirus, your order may be delayed. We will let you know when you place your order via email. 

Topics: Color,Black and White,New Work

Permalink | Posted March 20, 2020

Fruitlands


Austere

Spare

Reduced

Minimal

Straight

Neutral

Fruitlands is a Museum in Harvard, Massachusetts that I've been photographing on and off this winter (Website). A project I seem to have backed into somehow. Odd really.

Let me explain. Most ideas for projects and places to photograph hit me over the head. This one crept up on me. 

Over the Christmas holidays, my daughter, granddaughter and I made an excursion out to the museum on a weekend afternoon. As we were walking from building to building I couldn't escape the openness of the place, its beauty, sitting just down from the top of a ridge, the whole place looking out on a vast expanse of New England. Later, during a crisis in my family of epic proportions, I found myself driving by Fruitlands on my way to another project every few days. I thought if I could make pictures there it would be good. The Museum is closed in the winter so I sought permission to photograph. It was granted and so I began. Many thanks, Fruitlands.

Note the square and black and white. I hate making a big thing out of a small one, but being able to work square and to see the edge of the frame accurately is a very big thing to me and both the Nikon and Sony I use allow this. This is a dream come true for this photographer. I can make pictures that fit into the mold poured years ago in series such as Nantucket, Yountville, Hershey, Portland starting in the early 80s. You'll see these if you scroll down to the bottom of the  Gallery page on the site. 

At any rate, this has been mostly a no-snow winter so the ground is bare, the trees are barren, the landscape is reduced and brutal. Odd for me, not knowing if this was working and the methodology supportive of the outcome. Initially, I wasn't sure if this was a project or not. 

Well, it has become one now. Making new pictures has become an organic process for me, making photographs in projects or series. Partly intuited, partly thought through. The plan for this is to be a comparative piece. As a foundation, establish the severity of the grounds offseason in winter, then counter with flat out spring; lush, verdant and colorful, the remarkable transformation of the seasons.

Of course, there is still much to do. I will shoot a few more times under different light and different times of day as well. These are harsh pictures I know, but after all these years I  have to trust my process. The thinking behind my photography can easily fall into a "what I am" versus a "what I could be" logic and not something I have an inclination to either change or spend time on at this stage in my career. Quite simply, this is what I do.

What purposes do these pictures serve? What are they about? The photographer Harry Callahan said this wonderful thing, “It’s the subject matter that counts. I’m interested in revealing the subject in a new way to intensify it. A photo is able to capture a moment that people can’t always see.”

My sentiment exactly.

Topics: New England,Black and White,Digital,New Work

Permalink | Posted March 4, 2020

There Was a Tree


There was a tree on a one-day shooting trip to southern Vermont in the early spring in 1977. All by itself, chopped down, many of its branches and pieces on the ground scattered around it. 

Since many of you are photographers you might like to know these were made with the single lens Rollei SL66, hand held, shot on Kodak's Plus-X film, processed in D76 1:1 and printed on Agfa's Portriga Rapid paper in 11 x 14 inches, hence the slightly warm color of the prints. You are seeing copies of the prints, not scans from the negatives.

Context? Sure. I was teaching at New England School of Photography (NESOP) which, ironically, is about to close for good next month. I was single as my wife and I had divorced the year before. I was living in Cambridge, MA. I had finished graduate school a few years earlier and my career hadn't really begun in any meaningful way. That would start the next year as I began teaching at Harvard in 1978.

This was a time where my photographing and printing was incessant. I would have a one man show at the Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover, MA the next year, along with smaller shows at NESOP and at local galleries in the Boston area as well as shows at Martha's Vineyard. In fact, coming up the next summer I would have a two person show with my mom in Vineyard Haven. My mother was a painter.

Why show these now? Well, because I came across them in a box of loose prints from the 70's last week. But more importantly, they always held a place close to my heart. They are "series work" before I knew what that was or that series work would form a foundational basis for my photography throughout my career. And they are evidence of a disaster, much like my pictures of Paradise CA are today. As a metaphor for larger tragedies, these photographs of a felled tree all by itself in a large field in Vermont has stood as a symbol for my relationship to the end of life and death for the past 43 years. 

I am showing you the full set, just six prints. 

I remember the photographs of the bodies strewn around the battlefield by Mathew Brady or one of his crew during the Civil War. The next summer I would travel to Europe to photograph at Dachau outside of Munich and soon I would make my first intentional series work in Nantucket in the summer of 1980.

I don't even have a title for this work. It could be "Tree in a Field". Perhaps you have some ideas for what to call this series of mine before I was making series. 

If you come Sunday I can show you the prints.

Thank you for reading my blog. 

________________________________________________________________Coming up this weekend!

You should come...

Topics: Northeast,Analog,Black and White

Permalink | Posted February 17, 2020

CARDS

I confess. I wrote this post a while ago and it has sat in my "to finish" list. Here it is.

I am going to write about cards: meaning photo cards I created that combined a note or text with pictures, sometimes my own and sometimes not.

About 2000, inkjet printing was evolving as were ways of sharing imagery. My skills were also improving as I moved through generations and iterations of printers. Various companies were also making do-it-yourself substrates and one of those was photo cards. I used one made by Kodak. I started with thank you notes and/or Xmas cards. These were a picture printed on a folding card with a note scribbled in my illegible handwriting. This then progressed to found photographs, family snapshots combined with some text, usually fiction, that made a story, or a commentary on the image.

This was a snapshot I'd found at a flea market. And here is the text I wrote to go    with it:

As time went on I'd make a card, perhaps sending it but also keeping a copy for myself. I still have most of them.

This one, of my dad, making a movie of some bizarre hunt in the backyard:

An Easter Egg hunt? I have no idea. And the text I wrote to go with it:

That's just two of them. There are many more.  Sometimes we forget the skills we have, the abilities that we have worked so hard and long to obtain are usable for far more than just making our prints for exhibition. I made cards at the time  as I was just learning how to make photographs and combine them with  type. It was early days and my abilities as a graphic designer are still wanting. These two above are just because I could. I encourage you to stretch out, to increase your range and breadth. It is far too easy to think of yourself in just one category as a visually creative person. 


Topics: Commentary,Black and White

Permalink | Posted January 19, 2020