Topic: Digital (121 posts) Page 1 of 25

A Personal History #3

An autobiography with an art slant, part 3.

I retired from my teaching position at Northeastern University in December 2012, after thirty years.

But before we bring things up to the present we have to go back a little to about  2005. This was when things went in a slightly different track.

Now a full professor, my position and place at the University was secure. As a senior faculty member, I applied for and was awarded more and better grants, several residencies and more times away than before. My first book came out that year

to critical acclaim, my work was being collected more, shown more and I had it in many major museums. This allowed a degree of creative freedom that was exhilarating. With the realization that I could do anything I wanted with my work, I did.

I  made pictures at 17 Cabela's stores across the Midwest:

I photographed at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia.

This led to work from Reggio Emilia in Italy:

And finally to the National Museum of Medicine and Health in Washington.

You get my point. I hadn't abandoned other ways of expressing, I had just expanded into other interests, including a preoccupation of just what "death" meant to me. 

This has happened to others, of course, but I was also beginning a disengagement from my position as a professor in those years, taking more risk as an artist and being more assertive. And some of the logistics for making some of this new work were complicated and difficult. Strike one for increased self-confidence. 

Let's stop here for this post. Next, we will go to what happened after I retired from Northeastern. I promise.

Topics: Color,Black and White,Europe,Digital,US

Permalink | Posted August 14, 2018

Something New on Site

Just a quick post to write that I have new work on the site.

Spruce Pine: here

These were made in late May and early June (2018) while teaching at Penland in North Carolina. Each year I teach there I photograph in the early mornings in town before class, often with students. There are portfolios from 2012,  2013 and 2014 as well.

Menemsha: here

I made these in late June after returning from North Carolina. Menemsha is a small fishing village on Martha's Vineyard. Same thing: get up early, go shoot, every day.

Topics: Northeast,Southeast,Color,Digital

Permalink | Posted August 11, 2018

A Personal History #2

Continuing a series of posts on my career as a photographer.

By the mid-eighties, I'd been married and divorced, had one child, had owned a home and lost the home, had renovated a house, was teaching both at Northeastern and Harvard and photographed and printed constantly. It was fast times. 

Being on a tenure-track in a university comes with a whole host of requirements as you are under great scrutiny. I was exhibiting frequently and at increasingly prestigious places, I was shooting and printing constantly, my work was being published in periodicals, I was receiving numerous grants and I was presenting at conferences and symposia. I was teaching on the Vineyard and elsewhere in the summers and traveling whenever and wherever I could to make new work. In 1983 I received a one-semester sabbatical and traveled extensively throughout the American southwest photographing.  In 1986 I returned to the southwest to photograph over three months with the 8 x 10 camera. It was significant that I was Northeastern's first photography professor. This put me under some pressure not only to validate my work and myself but to validate that photography was a legitimate academic discipline worthy of study. In 1988 I was tenured at Northeastern University in a unanimous decision. 

#4 Digital

By the early 90's it was clear big changes were coming. I was successful in getting some very expensive scanning equipment donated and we were off and running in very early digital days. Initially, we were just scanning but soon after we were printing too. By 2003 the Photo Program I headed was legitimately on a roll; new courses were on the books, we were hiring new faculty and I was scanning and printing my 8 x 10 and 2 1/4 negatives. And, I had started to work in color. 

My whole creative output from the time I was a student until then had been in black and white. This for the simple reason that I didn't think most color photography was any good.

I had been traveling to the SE corner of Washington starting in 1996 in the summers to photograph the extensive wheat fields there. I had been working in 8 x 10 black and white making minimal, austere and formal studies of essential elements of the landscape.

In 2001 I began shooting in color, initially without much success but by the second year was beginning to get it. As I got better at it and my confidence increased I started exploring color in other aspects of my work and was beginning to print my color work digitally, from scans of my 8 x 10 transparencies.

This was tremendously exciting and motivating, to start as a novice and to be a student again in something new. I believe this is essential for a career artist to stay active and viable. Taking risk is key.

While digital capture (photographing digitally) was still in its infancy in the early 2000's, staying with film, scanning it once processed and then making inkjet prints was a highly qualitative way to work in those earlier years. 

Back at Northeastern, I had now been advised that I should apply to be a full professor, a position I call the "last promotion" for an academic as there isn't anything else after that. While less of a career-threat than tenure, as you aren't fired if you don't get it, the full professorship carries more prestige and establishes that you have "arrived", at least on campus. Think: big shot. I became a full professor at Northeastern in 2003 in a unanimous decision. 

Let's stop here. For the next post I will follow through to my retirement from Northeastern in 2012 and we'll take a look at the work I made from then to the present.

I thank you for your time and for joining me.

Topics: Analog,Digital,Northwest,American Series

Permalink | Posted August 9, 2018

DEVASTATION

As you may know, I photographed firestorm damage in southern and northern California last winter. Now, in July, there are reports of new fires, some in the same region as before. I can't shake it.

I made up this short story. Let me know what you think. Neal's email

Dan thought he was doing better. He'd had that fight with Del last week about trying to be more present and holding up his end, spending more time with them. He knew of the fires and was worried but the day at work had been really something; the merger, the raise, the promotion. He'd picked up Sheila on time that day at school and was rushing home to feed the kids. As he drove up the valley it was quite smoky, the air thick. You could taste it. As he pulled up to the house he could see small flames in the trees on the ridge across the valley 5 miles away. That didn't look so bad, he thought. He called Del to find she was on her way up the valley too, stuck in traffic, gridlocked. He told the kids to clean up and set the table, start their homework and come down when he called that dinner was ready. He started to fix the meal, washing the broccoli in the kitchen sink and looking out the window thinking what it was he could do with $6k more each month. Oh man, that boat he saw at the show. Setting the rice boiling, and getting a beer, he turned back to the sink and glanced up and out to see something very different. As in a daze, he looked out at a raging maelstrom of fire coming right towards him from above, flashing down the hillside, the fire fanned by the high winds, flames blown horizontal. He woke up, left the water running in the sink and took the stairs three at a time yelling, "Get out, now, get out, we have to get out now!" "But Dad, I'm right in the middle of...." Kenny said. "Get out now, right now, no, leave it... out!!!!" And they're all tumbling scrambling down the stairs and out the front door, Lucy barking like she was possessed and into the truck and out the driveway and down the hill, it seeming like the fire was right on them as it was everywhere, thick smoke and the heat! Dan looked over his shoulder as they sped away to see his house fully engulfed in flames. They got down to the valley and Dan pulled over. They tumbled out, all three kids yelling at him, two crying as it began to dawn on them, their lives as they'd known them were over.  Everything was gone. There were hugs too for they realized they were lucky to be alive.

Dan realized he had nowhere to go as he dialed Del to tell her their house was gone.


Topics: Color,Digital,Aerial

Permalink | Posted July 9, 2018

Follow Through

Golf swing, baseball's at-bat or throwing to first base, tennis, almost anything in  sports: I can remember my ski coach in high school yelling at me to "follow through!" in the giant slalom. Well, it's important in making art as well.

After three years of photographing almost daily every morning before class in Spruce Pine, NC while teaching at Penland School of Crafts, I approached the subject this year with genuine doubt that I could contribute anything new. When you've grown to know an area it is harder to eke out new material. But I went most mornings, sometimes with a few students, more often on my own.

Of course, the last time I photographed in the town it was 2014. That's a lifetime in digital photography and I was working a few weeks ago with a present-day camera which upped my game. Back then it was the Nikon D800E, a breakthrough camera with some serious problems. It had a tendency to vibrate, making pictures that were blurry. 

What did I find? This was work this time, the pictures not coming so easily, the fluidity of being in a groove harder to come by. I did make some discoveries, however, and learned that I didn't know this small town as much as I thought I did. I learned that I could speak in very subtle tonalities and colors, conveying huge amounts of information, that less can be more and that it isn't always necessary to scream your point. I learned to let the pictures speak, working to impose less upon them, as most good photography doesn't need to feed the photographer so much. Although working mostly with the same focal length lens as before, I worked to utilize its attributes better rather than to minimize its shortcomings. And finally, this was photographs made under no pressure, as there is no one beating down my door to see this work, no show I am working towards, no one, in fact, knows what I did. Very freeing, this. 

If left to your own devices and mindset, free from outside influence, what is your art like? Mine becomes quieter, as I am no longer looking for the "star" image, no longer thinking that I am a career professional with a reputation to maintain. I can be a student of the medium again. This is really it, the reason we do this, photograph so obsessively, looking looking looking. Let the picture come out, let the content drive the agenda instead of imposing yourself upon it. Become that kid in you, become that person seeing these things for the first time, wondering at what is displayed in front of your camera. 

This is what I discovered in Spruce Pine, North Carolina in the end of May and early June, 2018:


Want to see more? These, of course, are just the introduction. Want to see all the Spruce Pine work? Want to see actual prints?

Easy. Email me: Neal's Email.

Topics: Color,Digital,Southeast

Permalink | Posted June 24, 2018