Topic: Color (148 posts) Page 1 of 30

Life Intrudes

As much as photography is large in my life,  there is "other". As a younger man, I believed photography constituted an escape, a way to divert away from all that noise and tune into something my own that was positive and beautiful.  

But our health issues cannot be denied and I went in late last week for a heart-based procedure that produced less than favorable results. A consult with a heart surgeon this week should decide my fate. I am looking to be less out of breath at the top of the stairs to say nothing of being able to tackle hills on my bike. 

We've had quite a year. From unfathomable numbers of deaths and misery to art-making held in check, such a loss of momentum that it makes one wonder if it will ever come back. I did what I always do when my tank is empty.  I kept working. And, I've made a few, although not a continuous stream of ideas made into real things as before, but prints in a box on a shelf, nevertheless.  

I look a lot. Driving, doing errands, getting by with too much streaming, not enough people to hear different ideas expressed. As I move around: yes, no, maybe, needs different light, a different season, I want that but can't stop here, more an accrual of single pictures than before when one was connected to the next for a series.  Simple really. Maybe that's it, we are addled, out of sorts, unable to concentrate or hold focus. But, it's good to look, to be on the hunt. Proves continued involvement. I've gotten to know a new neighborhood (I moved a year ago). What a pleasure to go around a corner to find something new. I lived in Cambridge and Boston so long there was not much new. Acton, Concord, Stowe, Maynard, Hudson, Marlborough, and so on.  All good, rich. As I've learned, it is a region of water: streams, rivers, ponds marshes and swamps.

Been a time to retrospect too. I am struck by just how much things matter and then later how little they do. When younger there were always students, crazed to soak up experience and knowledge, to hear stories, and then hand them down to others. Now, not so much. Non-photo and non-art family not so interested so who to listen and look, who then?

Soon, back to the usual, pretty much. You can see it on the trip to the market, to filling up, to going to work out. More and more vaccinated, feeling safer.

Leaving you with these: 

photographs © Neal Rantoul

All are from either Martha's Vineyard or Chappaquiddick.

Topics: Northeast,New Work,Digital,Color

Permalink | Posted May 23, 2021

Incredible

Incredible. 48 years! You hear old folks saying all the time: "Where'd all the years go?" but seriously, where did all the years go?

As a grad student at the RI School of Design, where I graduated in the spring of 1973, I was meant to produce two copies of my thesis, one for the school's library and one for the Photography Department. Some did, others didn't. 

I did.

My thesis was photographs I made in auto junkyards. 

Did I have it in my head that I was making these pictures to speak to issues of our wasteful society, of consumerism run amok, or of protecting our environment? I did not. I liked the forms and shapes of the wrecked cars and trucks, the shiny     chrome, the rusted panels.  In our class, critiquing this work as I made it, no one brought up any of the above issues. The politics of the work was not apparent for this was a far more innocent time. We were demonstrating against the war in Vietnam but not against the lack of awareness in our work.

Photographs were made then for their aesthetic, perhaps technique was discussed, or print size, the paper they were printed on or our use of the camera. The mechanics of photography was a much bigger deal then for good craft was harder. It took skill to make a great print.

But where does 48 years come in?

Last week while out visiting my high school (Darrow School, New Lebanon, NY) I went back to Adler's Antique Auto in Stephentown to photograph in much the same way I did in 1973 in Rhode Island, 48 years ago.

The same but hugely different too. Then: the Rollei SL66 21/4 camera on a tripod with the 80mm Carl Zeiss f2.8 Planar lens and Kodak Plus X film. (I still have this camera) Now: the Sony A7R MK lV camera hand held with the 70-200mm f2.8 G-Master lens.

Then: black and white, printed by me in my basement darkroom on Agfa Portriga Rapid 11 x 14 inch paper.

Now: color, printed by me in my studio using the Epson P9000 inkjet printer with Red River Polar Matte 17 x 25 inch paper.

Of course, this wasn't the same junkyard as in 1973, but over the years I had photographed at Adler's a few times, most notably with the 8 x 10 camera, for Adler's is quite special, a tribute to rust with its emphasis on 40s and 50s cars and trucks.

Adler's Antique Auto, Stephentown, NY


Like going back in time, photographing in an auto junkyard again after 48 freaking years!

Topics: Analog,Digital,Black and White,Color,Northeast

Permalink | Posted May 9, 2021

The Alone Post

Although I was never particularly uncomfortable photographing with others and would often take students on field trips, either during class but also on weekends or even longer, over my career my best pictures have been made by being alone. A camera, some film, a lens or two, or more recently an empty card and a full battery. But just me, my thoughts, whatever perceptions I may have, leaning on experience and a "what if?" attitude.

Much of my work and over my career has been based on traveling someplace to make my art. Earlier there were countless day trips, necessitated by being very busy, with teaching (many years at Northeastern and Harvard simultaneously) and being a father. I've lived in New England my whole life and it has been a rich environment in which to be a photographer. Also, I couldn't afford trips away frequently. Later, as my daughter grew and went away to school, and my income was better, I could get away, mostly on spring or summer breaks for longer periods, ten days or two weeks, or for many many years, teaching in Italy for a summer term, with free time on the weekends to take off in a rented car, explore and make pictures. I found the Dolomites this way, ski areas high in the mountains with barren slopes in the summer, the city of Trento north of Venice on the edge of the mountains, German and Italian cultures melded together, or on the Mediterranean along the coast.

And over twenty-five years and close to as many trips to the wheat fields of the Palouse in southeastern Washington. Really only one reason: to photograph. Get up early and after breakfast, get going. Up from Pullman or my base for years at the Best Western in Colfax. A vast expanse of rolling hills of wheat, lentils, safflower, peas.

In the early years in the 90's, drive, stop, haul out the tripod, unfold the 8 x 10, hang the meter around my neck, pull out the case of holders, swing it all over my     shoulder, walk to where I would make the picture, open the lens, go under the black cloth, focus, adjust, come out, close the lens, point the meter at my subject, set and cock the lens, insert the holder, pull out the slide, click the shutter, reinsert the slide black side out, throw it all over my shoulder, walk back to the rental, dismantle it all so it would fit in the car, get back behind the wheel, drive until time to repeat the process all over again, hour after hour and day after day.

This all got a little easier when I began to take digital seriously in about 2006.

Looking back, I know I wouldn't have made very good company, so inside my head as to be practically non verbal. I wasn't looking for company, I was looking for pictures. Nights were simple as I was so exhausted, that, after unloading and reloading the holders in a closet or a bathroom so I could shoot the next day,  I was often done by 8 or 8:30. Meals were solitary, maybe while reading a paperback I'd brought along. I reread some Hemingway on one trip, For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms, books and ideas not thought of since high school. I often read a Robert Parker novel as it seemed there was a new one every year. I can remember lusting after a cold beer as I worked late in the afternoons on dusty farmer's roads in August heat just before harvest, the wheat like gold, not a barn or a house to be seen.

From a busy and full life, students needing questions answered, help and council,  loving my kid or with family on the Vineyard, long days of surf on the beach, but needing and loving this too, days with not a word, the landscape, the sky, and me, tiny and insignificant, a camera, a tripod, a rented Nissan or Chevy or Ford or Kia or Honda from Enterprise, Dollar, Hertz, Avis, or Alamo from the airport two hours north in Spokane. 

Seems like countless times, the last one in 2019, like coming back to an old friend, a part of this country that simply doesn't change much. There is comfort in that.

Is it the isolation that advocates for the pictures I make?

There have been a few times where a friend or two came out, joined me for a couple of days to roam the hills. It is only possible to understand the power of this, the Palouse, by being there. 

By 2005 I had started making aerials each time I went, a shock sitting so close to the pilot in the small plane I hired. Probably the longest sentences of the trip as I asked him or her to turn right, lift the wing, change the altitude or do a 360 around that, please. Very powerful to capture close to 500 frames in an hour's flight, then head back to the motel room to see that I had done.

Alone with my thoughts, no distractions, reflecting on my plight, yes lonely but knowing that would end when back home. By that I mean I was smart enough to know that while I was making some wonderful work there was much I was missing in life. Alone had its goods and it had its bads. In the 8 x 10 film days, returning from wherever I was I knew I had months of film developing ahead of me before I was to see anything. Digital changed that. The 8 x 10 was a wonderful economy, a full days shooting being maybe 20 frames. But digital was easily several hundreds of frames a day.

As a teacher I learned it was important to say this to students for they didn't know it innately. This thing is hard work and needs a willingness to sweat, hike, push through and stay on course. There are long hours with little visible reward, practice  needed to keep craft and acuity in tune. Lazy just does not work.

I'll leave you with this. In my workshops and adult student teaching over the years I often have people, accomplished perhaps in something else, turning over and into photography, in a hurry to get good very fast. They are seeking a pro's maturity without a pro's history. They wish to be as successful at this as they were at what came before photography. So, these are "know it all" people in the role of being a student. It can be awkward for in photography they know so very little. Often they have all the gear and even the mannerisms down pat, for YouTube videos have given them that. But working in isolation and solo has never entered their heads. Off photographing with a husband or a wife on a nice summer morning they don't know that the partner sitting back there in the car while they traipse around "on the hunt" is a distraction and a conflict to the making of good photographs. They want depth in their pictures but are playing the guessing game of shooting randomly in the hope that something will work out. Taking a trip solo, dedicated to the making of photographs, can be a revelation here, the student understanding that the solitude can lead to seeing through the subject to a deeper meaning.

As I wrote earlier, alone has its goods and it has its bads. 

Want to respond? Not hard: here

Topics: Color,Black and White,Analog,Digital,West

Permalink | Posted April 15, 2021

Delivered 2

(wall light at the Mansion House Hotel)

Don't know what this post is about? Suggest you read Delivered 1 first.

As the morning light increased and I walked around the town I began to feel some old muscles coming back to life. "I wonder that this will look like? What if I put this up against this? Include this in the frame or not? Move in or out? Darker, lighter, more DOF, faster shutter?" All those decisions to make, ingrained in my make-up over so many years being a photographer starting to surface after so long  dormant.

At the end of the long interview with Linsey Lee at the Museum for an oral history I found myself saying that I felt we were at the very edge of things getting better. We had voted out the most terrible of presidents in our lifetimes, democracy had survived a real test January 6 when the capital was breached, and, although the stats are truly horrible with 410,000 dead from COVID 19, I believe Biden will work hard to get us back on track with the vaccine as quickly as possible.

Are we just now starting to see the end of this nightmare we've been living in? Is this the very beginning of the end? Yes, I believe it may just be.

The show installed

Topics: New England,Color,Digital,Northeast

Permalink | Posted January 22, 2021

Delivered 1

My daughter Maru and I delivered the ABOVE show to the Martha's Vineyard Museum on the 19th and were put up in the Mansion House Hotel nearby that night. The next day (Joe Biden's inauguration day) we were back at the Museum at 9 as they had scheduled an interview and video session for me to answer questions for an oral history. 2 hours later we were in line for the ferry back off the island, the idea being the less exposure and the less contact the better. We were away 24 hours.

Although Martha's Vineyard is where my family summer home is, this was a treat of unimaginable proportions. Spending time with Maru, being someplace different, seeing my work coming to life, sleeping in a different bed, being OUT. I pledge not take travel for granted ever again. 

I got out at dawn the 20th to walk with a camera before my interview. No big deal, but to see, to exercise that visual part of my psyche was wonderful.

From the hotel's roof deck at dawn

and walking around Vineyard Haven

I'll put up a few more in Delivery 2 next.

I am told the show is up and will be viewable tomorrow, January 22. The Museum is open, with attendance restricted. I advise calling ahead: 508-627-4441.

Note to all those who have worked on this show and sought to bring it to view at the Museum. You are fantastic and I am very grateful. What an honor to have my work shown there.

Topics: Northeast,Digital,New England,Color

Permalink | Posted January 21, 2021