Topic: infrared (5 posts)

New Show

Boston Up

I took some photographs to the Boston Society of Architects (BSA) this week for a show that will be up through the winter. I am showing with longtime friend Peter Vanderwarker. The BSA is planning an opening reception for January 30th.

The show features work I made in 70mm black and white infrared film in the early eighties of downtown Boston. It is called Boston Up.

If you don't know of the BSA they offer a wide variety of programming, classes, lectures, and exhibitions, all centered around the built environment. They are on Congress Street in Boston.

The Boston Society of Architects/AIA is committed to professional development for our members, advocacy on behalf of great design, and sharing an appreciation for the built environment with the public at large.
Established in 1867, the BSA today consists of nearly 4,500 members and produces content for a diverse array of programs and publications, including ABX and ArchitectureBoston.
A chapter of the American Institute of Architects, it is a nonprofit, professional-service organization.
The BSA is located at BSA Space. BSA Space features more than 5,000 square feet of gallery space for creative explorations of the potential of design to inspire, create community and transform the world we inhabit. BSA Space is also home to the BSA Foundation (formerly the Boston Foundation for Architecture).

For more information and open hours please go to: Boston Society of Architecture

Topics: Northeast,Analog,Digital,infrared

Permalink | Posted January 12, 2019

Finding Your Bliss 3

In Finding Your Bliss (here) and Finding Your Bliss 2 (here) I wrote about a Sally Mann photograph and compared it to this image I made in 1976, not in content but in intent.

As I work to conclude this series let me please pause and thank Sally Mann for starting this extended conversation. Her photograph pushed me to go back in my own work and dredge up the two swans photograph and remember what it meant then and what it means now.

But what happened to my work after I had this big moment, this realization that with my photography I now had a deeper understanding of inherent possibilities, paths, and directions? Did I go back to the family picnic that afternoon and announce my discovery? Did my family and friends have any clue that I had gone deeper and seen farther into my life's work as an artist. Nope, nor did it come out later. This was my discovery, my "ah-ha" moment. I felt somehow that this experience was not relatable or at least that I couldn't share the power of the realization effectively, or, at worst, that they wouldn't care.

I would say that, while I didn't go on to become a "hands or body parts in the picture" photographer I was better informed to the inherent possibilities and depth that my pictures could address, that I was playing to a higher level in my work after that day. In short, by making this personal discovery, the bar had been raised on my own work throughout the rest of my career. 

As an addendum,

let me answer the question you might be asking. Was that infrared photograph of my hands in a picture made of two swans on the edge of a pond in Martha's Vineyard in 1976 something that led me to more "hand's in" pictures? Did I continue or utilize this process in other work as I went through my career? Mostly no, with occasional exceptions. Examples:

These are from my first trip to Iceland in 2013. I was an artist in residence at the Baer Art Centre in Hofsos. The pictures are of The Cape, a locally famous huge piece of rock near where we lived that summer. Same thing, feeling a strong connection, I found my hand(s) sliding into the picture. An affirmation perhaps that I was there and interacting with the air and place in a short slice of time. Not conscious so much as felt or intuited perhaps.

I was not the first person to move my hands or other body parts into the frame of my photographs in 1976. Self portraiture was common and I made some of those too. But was I making a sort of "selfie" back then? I don't believe so, for a selfie connotes a desire to show yourself in a place, in front of  the Golden Gate Bridge, the Grand Canyon, the Taj Mahal as a proof mechanism that you were there.  Not my interest at all. For mine was to interact with the place, as an immersion into the place.

Let me leave you with the following. As photographers we must deal with the mechanics of our medium (although even that is changing). Also, as someone who makes his own prints I must bring a whole other set of skills to bear. But if well schooled, all of this fades to the far background to allow a skillful and meaningful image to surface. This also allows us to share our feelings and perceptions with others, to point a direction, to observe something amazing or awful or never seen before or even to draw attention to something others walk right by on their way to work. This most incredible tool we have, photography, which has gotten so good in the last few years, is our best observational device ever to look at ourselves and the world we inhabit. And, occasionally but rarely in my work, to interact too.

Mt Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge,MA 1978


This finishes the "Find Your Bliss" series of posts begun earlier this month. As always, thanks for reading my short essays.  Comments are welcome: here.

Topics: Black and White,Analog,Digital,infrared

Permalink | Posted October 5, 2018

Finding Your Bliss 2

If you read the first installment (Finding Your Bliss) to this series of posts you'll know our story is about to arrive at its apex. 

Poucha Pond, Chappaquick, 2017

At the core of my aesthetic as a landscape artist are these two pictures. Some sky, some foreground and some land, often a strip off in the distance. It is what I painted as a spray painter in the late 60's and it sits at the foundation of decades of landscape work as a photographer.

Near Pullman, Washington 1997

While having little understanding of this while standing on the edge of Squibnocket Pond that warm day in late August, 1976, I saw a pair of swans close to the opposite shore. This is not uncommon as the pond is a safe haven for swans to nest and bring up their young. I hung the camera around my neck, set the self timer and proceeded to make a series of exposures with my hands in the picture.

Why? Because I felt connected to the pair of swans way off?  Because of the commonality between all things living?   In this simple act of making pictures in this way I am sure I couldn't have found words to say. This was almost completely a "felt picture", putting a part of me in the frame to affirm my existence, to establish that there I was, to deny distance and objectification, to force the sense that photography can be as much about the maker as the things shown in the frame. Look how small the swans are (remember I was using a 24mm lens) and how large my hands are. Isn't Sally Mann doing the same thing in her picture? Affirming her ability and vitality,

the depth of her feelings for her chosen medium and its expressive character, for its ability to convey raw emotion, perhaps love? I believe so and with my really quite simple and perhaps naive picture made in 1976 the same sensibility pervades as I stretched my arms out and reached out to those swans, waiting for the click of the shutter. I was certainly struck with the contrast of the innate simplicity and beauty of this timeless event of two swans passing by and me standing there, a creature from a different world, tricky and high tech tool hung around my neck, this esoteric film recording the content in the infrared spectrum and producing a glow to my white skin.

It is tempting now so many years later to build more into this picture than it warrants and I am resisting being a sensationalist here, but there is no ignoring that this was clearly a crucial moment I was having that afternoon on the Vineyard. The realization that I had crossed a threshold holds true today.

So, what happened? What did I do after finding my bliss in this moment in 1976?  Well, stay tuned for #3 to find out.

As always, I invite your comments: Neal's email

Topics: Black and White,infrared,Analog

Permalink | Posted October 4, 2018

Southwest 1979

First of all, my primary mission with this blog is to bring attention to work I believe is worth looking at, to bring to the fore work that is under acknowledged, new, or unknown. 

To this end, we are going to take a few posts to examine some work I made in the late 70's on a self imposed sabbatical leave from teaching to photograph in the American Southwest. 

The background and context: 

My first big trip away to photograph was in the winter of 1979. I wasn't a professor yet, and told NESOP (New England School of Photography) I wouldn't be teaching in the spring. After my teaching finished at Harvard in January I took off for the Southwest. This was a self imposed sabbatical of indeterminant length to go make work. I needed to get south from Boston as it was winter and I had friends I could stay with in places like Santa Fe and Houston as this was a trip on a shoestring.

This a quote from the blog titled "Sabbaticals".

The full portfolio is now up on the site and can be seen here.

After some delays that includes a car that needed repair I was gone like a shot in late January from Cambridge and found myself in New Orleans making my first pictures:

I was working solo, with two 2/14 cameras, the Hasselblad Superwide, using panchromatic black and white and infrared films, and the SLR Rollei SL66, also in black and white. I didn't start using color until about 2001...22 years later!

After a week or so in NOLA I drove to Houston,

where I stayed with a friend of a friend, and grew to understand this oil rich boom town a little.

While in Houston I made the discovery of the wonderful Rothko Chapel at Rice University and also met Anne Tucker for the first time, at the Museum of Fine Art. She was then the new curator of photography.

Looking back, these early pictures look much like a warmup as I wasn't really in the Southwest yet, or at least what I thought of as the landscape of the Southwest.

That happened in Alamogordo, NM and nearby White Sands:

White Sands was a revelation to me, just as it has been to many others. The several days I spent there opened my eyes up to the possibilities inherent in a sensibility of reduction and a proclivity as a minimalist.

However, methodology that've been in place for me for decades hadn't coalesced yet in 1979. I was doing much of this for the first time and so this trip was  formative. One of the things is the recollection that I had no idea what the outcome of all this work would be. Of course, I knew of Kerouac, Robert Frank, Danny Lyon, Walker Evans, Lee Freidlander, Steinback, Robert Pirsig, but I didn't model my behavior or artistic aspirations in their vein, I was on my own journey.  Nor was I  photographing with intention for a final result.  I was just photographing. This was work made not so much with the intellect as it was intuition with no known outcome. Apologies for painting this with a big brush, but this trip was loaded for I was risking whether this would take, was this sustaining as a career: avocation and vocation, a life in the arts, and whether I could pull this off. I had no real job, although I liked teaching, it wasn't a firm commitment yet, I was an adjunct in two schools, was single with no kids, could pick up and move and was thinking seriously that perhaps the Southwest might be a place to live.

We will stop here, only really just scratching the surface of this work. I have much more to say about it. I hope you will come along with me. 

Next up in Southwest 2.





Topics: Black and White,Southwest,infrared,Vintage

Permalink | Posted May 7, 2017

INFRARED

1976. I know, another century, way before you were born, archaic pictures from a different time, totally irrelevant to present day photography. Well, you don't have to read this but that's where I am going, showing  you some work I made then. In the mid 70's I had started teaching at the New England School of Photography (NESOP) in Boston and was shooting a lot of 35mm, in earlier days with a Nikon and then a little later a Leica M4. Most summers I spent some time with my folks at Martha's Vineyard where the family home is. Going to the beach I'd bring a camera. We had access to a private beach on the South Shore called Squibnocket in those days. On long afternoons in the hot summer sun I would wander off and explore with a camera loaded with Kodak black and white infrared film and a 25A three stop red filter on the front of a wide angle lens. This below is typical of the kind of picture I'd make, hanging the camera around my neck and setting it on a self timer, my hands sliding into the frame, a desire to interact with what was in front of me, to play a part in the picture:

Way back there as two dots on the water are a pair of swans. This was taken after walking back from the shore and the surf to a private inland pond. I made many more like these in those years, not really knowing why, not able to verbalize well what the motive was, more of a feeling than a thought. I wasn't alone, others were making more personal pictures, extending photography to areas not seen before, putting themselves in the frame. Occasionally I still do this. These from Iceland a few years ago:

I believe this way of working affirms a belief in the medium's inherent malleability, in its capability of being almost anything visual, looking like what is in front of the lens, looking nothing like the reality at all.

At any rate, bringing it back to infrared in the 70's, I had started photographing foliage in the spring and summer with the film, knowing it reacted to the chlorophyll in the foliage, rendering it light, while making blue skies go dark.

These are from Mt Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA near where I live. Mt Auburn has been a source of many of my pictures over the years. These and more I used for a grant application in 1978, which I did not receive.

I wanted to exert controls over the pictures then that would alter the images, make them in strong color (chemically toned black and white prints), using a wide lens (in this case the 21 Summicron lens on a Leica), and making them as big as I could get away with, 16 x 20 inches.

Eventually I found my hands slipping into cemetery pictures locally and as I travelled. These never became a fixed set, just an amalgam of pictures from different locations.

I don't have a strong background in religion and am not religious now. But not believing in a fixed religion doesn't mean you don't have a sense of purpose or that you aren't spiritual in some way. I think of these pictures as speaking to a connection, to empathy for others and a desire to connect on a level that is sympathetic. I've never shown them, until now.

I can cite two friends as influences: Jane Tuckerman, who has worked in infrared her whole career and who was a colleague of mine at Harvard, and Peter Laytin, who first exposed me to infrared and its possibilities. Thanks to you both.

After these I moved on to photograph using infrared at the concentration camp Dachau, in Germany. Let me know if you'd like to see those. 

Topics: Black and White,Europe,infrared,US,70's,Vintage

Permalink | Posted March 14, 2017