In The Show 1,2,3,4, I gave some perspective on photographic prints I was donating to the Martha's Vineyard Museum from a one-man exhibition I'd had on the island in 1995.
In this, the addendum, I'll share with you the handing over of the 21 prints to the Museum.
On a bright, sunny, and very windy day in early October 2020 my daughter Maru and I arrived at the scheduled time, prints in hand, and masks on. As it turns out the Museum is open but restricting the number of visitors.
Photos are by Maru:
We put the two portfolios out on white tables and went through the prints one by one with Bonnie Stacy, the Museum's curator.
Taking masks off for a second, we held one up I took of Keith's Field in 1993.
We then went upstairs to the library for me to sign a donor's form.
This gave me a chance to ask some questions of Bonnie: how the prints would be stored, whether they would show them, and so on. She showed us a couple of galleries that would be suitable for my work and said they were considering some ideas about putting them on display.
I then signed the "Deed of Gift "form ceding the prints to the Museum, giving permission to use them in any way they wished, including selling them, but I retain the copyright. This simply means that while they now owned the original prints from the show 25 years ago I retained the rights to use and own the imagery.
Then we left. Thanks to Maru for her help throughout this project
So that's the end of the story of donating prints I made 25 years ago to a museum on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.
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In The Show 1 and The Show 2 I wrote about an exhibition of my photographs at the Martha's Vineyard Museum in the summer of 1995.
The show itself was modest, set off from the other exhibitions in its own room with good light but low ceilings. My family was on the island for the opening and, as some are from California, this made the event more meaningful.
During the six weeks the show was up, Harry Callahan, my teacher from RISD, and his wife Eleanor flew to the Vineyard as Harry was giving a talk on his work. I'm going to quote myself here as I wrote about the evening of Harry's presentation a few years ago on this blog:
Harry was invited to Martha's Vineyard in the summer of 1995 by Carl Mastandrea of the Boston Photo Collaborative to give a presentation on his work. I was on the island for part of that summer and had a show of island landscapes at the MV Museum up at the same time. The day for his talk arrived and as the afternoon faded into evening the sky was darkening, a storm approaching. It was hot and humid, the air lifeless. As the crowd arrived at the Chilmark Community Center where Harry was to talk, the sky had turned very black and we could hear thunder in the distance.
Harry began his talk, standing up front at a lectern, speaking into a microphone.The house was packed with the overflow standing in back, kids crossed legged on the floor in front, Harry talking about his work in the darkened room, slides thrown up on a big screen. Crack! Came the thunder, the wind picking up as the storm approached. Harry continued, now his voice was competing with branches thrashing outside. The windows were open, the wind blowing things around, the audience was getting concerned and edgy while Harry continued. All of sudden lightning stuck the building, the power went out- Bam! - and Harry was standing there in the dark hall, the lightning having arced up the microphone cable and right to where Harry was standing. For an instant the crowd was in shock, immobile in surprise. Was Harry hit by lightining? Was he all right? For several minutes the power was out, the battery powered emergency lights were on and people were fussing over Harry to see if he was okay, the room bathed in a dim glow. Harry was standing there seemingly all right but very quiet, appearing to be wrestling with what just happened. A few minutes later the power went back on but, as the microphone was toast, people were asked to come forward to be able to hear Harry speak. The whole dynamic of the presentation changed then, Harry loosened up and the crowd was now experiencing something warmer and more intimate, as though in a conversation between friends rather than in a formal lecture.
Harry and Eleanor flew to New York the following day to visit with Eleanor's sister. Harry had a massive stroke a few days later in NY that knocked him back and that he never fully recovered from.
Harry was in his eighties that summer and we never did know if he'd been struck by lightning or not. I always felt there was a connection between the lightning storm that night in Martha's Vineyard and Harry's stroke, but I never knew for sure.
Images from the show "A Special Place" 1995 Photographs ©Neal Rantoul
Harry died in 1999.
I had driven Harry that afternoon of the day of his talk to see my show. I remember feeling very proud to get him there, to have my former teacher see my work.
Was this show in a small gallery at the Museum in August a big deal? No. Viewed mostly by tourists there to see exhibits of the island's whaling history and lighthouses it received a review in the local paper that praised some of it but was critical that some of the prints were too dark.
As the culmination of over four years of work, I considered the exhibition mission accomplished. The show was an acknowledgment that the work was valid and worthy of being seen. And I had aided VOLF by making pictures they could use for their needs.
No one contacted me during or after the show came down. No one wanted to see more work. No one wanted to publish a book of the work.
So it goes.
Next up? The Show 4. Where I will bring us up to date and look at where the work is going 25 years later, in the fall of 2020.
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.
Socka what? Sockanosset Boys Training School in Cranston RI. Now long gone and turned into some stores, a restaurant, and offices.
Evidently the school was built in the mid-1800s to house and train boys that were posing some difficulties for the state. Right up the street from a prison.
I would guess I made these about 2005. I have a friend who was living nearby and she mentioned that I might want to take a look at where the school was as the vines and brush were being cleared as prep for developing the site.
I remember I shot them once and blew it. Work this way and you can't have a frame that is out of focus. I just reprinted it at 45 x 34 inches as earlier ones sold long ago.
A note about size: while striking smaller, this image really needs to be large to see the subtleties in the variation of these three buildings. The grid is made from several rolls of 120mm film that I scanned then composited together to look like one roll of twelve exposures.
I am at the end of 1 1/2 weeks on Martha's Vineyard. House guests, great food, a three day Nor'easter, some work on the place and a few efforts at making pictures, as I have been on my own for the past four days. Back to the mainland tomorrow.
If you remember, last spring while here, I worked at Philbin Beach, where a stream was running down into the ocean, especially after it rained.
Some New Work
That stream this time, six months later, was not running down to the sea, but I found another one today, closer towards the clay cliffs:
Very often, after a storm, there is calm and today was exceptionally wind free. In contrast, this is what the south shore of the island looked like just a few days ago:
It was wild. The wind was coming from on shore so it whipped the water right off the top of the breaking waves.
There is a walkway to the beach from the parking lot at Philbin that is irresistible:
This isn't a camera review, but I did want to mention that I have been photographing with the Sony A7r mk IV this time here on the island and I am finding it really wonderful to work with. This is a far more mature and refined tool than the two previous versions. Mostly I am using the 24-105mm f4 lens.
The produce pictures are from the Farmer's Market in West Tisbury, the last market of the season.
I know, I am not breaking any new ground here but I am keeping my hand in and getting familiar with this new tool.
Trump made an appearance one morning at Lucy Vincent's Beach. No opinion, just the letters "Trump".
My friend Gail Hill was down from Toronto. Gail's a wonderful artist:
who greets you each morning on the Vineyard saying, "another perfect day in paradise."
And, you know, she's right.
I will miss the Vineyard until I return in the spring.