Topic: New England (11 posts) Page 2 of 3

Trees

Over the winter of 2016/17 I made a set of pictures we subsequently turned into a book called: Trees, Sand and Snow.

We're going to take a look at all three chapters in the blog with the next three posts, starting with the first chapter called, appropriately enough, Trees

The full series of the Trees photographs are on the site: here

Here is the opening essay:

Trees
The pictures of the stunted oak trees were made in the fall of 2016 in Wasque at the far end of the island called Chappaquiddick, just off of Martha’s Vineyard. While Chappy is a separate island accessed by a three-car ferry from Edgartown it is often clumped together by islanders as being part of the “Vineyard”.
The first few photographs in this chapter bring us on an early morning to a field with some trees on the horizon being hit by the sun as it rises, warm and yellow. These serve as the introduction to all three chapters, not only to this one. We then reach the remote end of the island called Wasque, the Vineyard’s most desolate and severe environment, with strong prevailing winds, erosion and salt spray limiting the height of the main topic of this chapter, the stunted oak trees in a stand at the edge of the bluff. In past years most of this large stand have been taken out by storms eroding the bluff away, the trees falling down the bluff like lemmings into the sea. In very recent times a cut into a nearby pond has closed allowing the formation of the barrier beach you can see in my pictures. This has given these oak trees a reprieve from their march to the sea, but the cut to the pond will open again and erosion will resume, sealing the fate of these magnificent characters shown in the photographs.

I think of the stunted oak trees at Wasque on Chappaquiddick Island as condemned, their future limited by natural forces and serving as a symbol for the destruction the rising ocean will cause. What I find especially poignant is that they do so in silence.
The trees themselves, photographed to emphasize their individuality, stand as strong players in an alien place. I can’t help but think of the cold starry night in mid-February, these trees buffeted by the frigid cold wind coming off the sea, season after season, year after year. They exist as survivors, tough in ways we can’t truly understand.
So, we start with the beautiful but sobering pictures of these trees in their inexorable march towards the bluff and their subsequent destruction, be it next year or ten years from now. Time doesn’t stop because we can’t see the hands on the clock moving.

After the initial photographs placing us at the end of the island and looking at the stand of stunted oaks with the ocean at my back, the pictures move into individual trees, as characters with their own personalities and attitudes, some in defiance of their plight and some in acceptance of it.

The concept is time, of course. How these trees are doomed to fall into the sea in a week, a month, years or decades. 

In reviewing the work now,  preparing to include it in the blog, remembering the miracle that was that one day on these two islands, Chappaquiddick and Martha's Vineyard, shooting "Trees" and then driving up island later that same day and shooting the next one, "Sand", it is almost too much to bear. To think this one day would align like that, over countless other days over my career that had not come close or failed or where I hadn't even seen the possibility for something happening at all still leaves me wondering what the hell was going on that day and seriously humbled by it. "Fortuitous" doesn't quite do it justice.

So starts the sequence of three series contained in one book: Trees, Sand and Snow. This intends to imply time as spread out ahead of us as an abstract in that this impending change; the erosion and destruction of this stand of stunted oak trees at Weasque will continue their march to the sea sooner or later, as inevitable as the tide will obliterate the patterns in the beach seen next in the Sand chapter or as the snow covering the concrete skate park in the last chapter called Snow.

I thank you for following along.

Note: Martha's Vineyard is much on my mind as I leave later this week for a month on the island. The month of May can be a tease as, due to surrounding cold water, the island is late to come to spring. This tends to make it wet and foggy. Can't wait.

Next post will be "Sand", the second chapter in the book.

Topics: Northeast,Digital,Color,New England

Permalink | Posted May 1, 2019

New York

Loyal readers, you are forewarned. This is going to be an old guy's post with no apologies.We wouldn't think to apologize for our age at 25, so why at 71? Probably because we don't want to admit to diminished capacity. While I freely admit that's true, look at the increased wisdom, perspective and sheer amount of experience that rides along with seniority.  I think I've got that (but I may be senile), so here goes.

In NYC for a few days last week I am struck by how many people live here, how friendly New Yorkers can be, how it all works somehow, how dirty it is, how it seems everyone is plugged in, on their phones, wearing earphones and walking very fast. I know, old guy stuff. One of the things that happens when you age is that your world becomes smaller, closes in to be fewer experiences in a smaller sphere. Well, going to New York is completely expanding, at least for me.

Photographing here can be frustrating as NY has a way of making your pictures seem insignificant and/or touristy. NY is overwhelming to someone like me who gets here only occasionally. Always exciting it is also enervating, as it speaks to a faster pace, to a relentless mass of humanity in a hurry, meaning it seems you have to join the wave. I am always exhausted by the time I leave.

I took the Acela train down and back from Boston, a very nice ride. A little over three hours: no airport, no security, no adjusting to the altitude, no bad air, no abusive public transportation to get into the city, and a reasonably good meal. Plus, something to look as you ride along. I made pictures on the way down and back from Boston.

I claim no originality on these at all for friend Michael Hintlian (website here) is the king of this and it is through his work that I understood the possibilities in working this way.

This requires huge quantity to get just a few. The way down was rainy, the ride back up at dawn was sunny.

Next up, what I made pictures of while I was in NYC.

I love New York.

Topics: New England,Color,Domestic

Permalink | Posted January 30, 2018

Louis Kahn Exeter Library

Ever hear of Louis Kahn? A few years before contemporary architecture moved into its Postmodernism, Deconstructivist, Post-Post Modernism, etc. phases
Louis Kahn, one of our most brilliant architects, designed late in his career a library for Exeter Academy in Exeter, NH in 1970 that stands as one of his greatest pieces.

A friend and I took the day and headed up there from Boston,  11/2 hours away.  Had a good lunch too, at the Green Bean Restaurant, right in town (highly recommended).

With some ideas from the Coliseum in Rome, the library, named the Class of 1945 Library, is a brick and glass cube that integrates with the other 19th century buildings nearby on campus, also in brick.

Minimal and understated, the exterior stands in service to the library's function, almost neutral, as a counter to what's inside.

Which is a tour de force of innovation, engineering, warmth and solemnity.

Huge supporting concrete blocks formed as large circles or openings letting in light, keeping the space open and spacious. Circles within a cube: simply breathtaking and elegant.

Look up and you find this:

With a prevailing palette of concrete, oak and beige carpet with a little hint of marble  thrown in for good measure, the building exudes quality, class and impeccable pedigree,  appropriate to this high-end and rather exclusive boarding school.

We were there in June so things were slow, virtually no students at all. But I can't imagine the library being raucous and loud, as it felt more like being in a tomb or place of worship to me. Whispers came almost without thought, in regards to the  place itself, a kind of reverence and respect for being in a place of  truly exceptional design.

I found a few of the details wonderful:

Yes, but Neal, I hear you asking, isn't this a Photo Blog? Well, yes, it is but in something like what I call a creative life (same category when I wrote last spring about Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water) inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes. This is about input and seeing what happens from it and, mixed in, sheer joy. 

It is my pleasure to bring this to you. 

Want to read more about Kahn? There's a great piece in the New York Review of Books about him, here, written by Martin Filler. 

Topics: Falling Water,New England,Color,Digital,Architecture

Permalink | Posted June 24, 2017

WET

This is pretty much what I had for three weeks at Martha's Vineyard this spring. This is the table we sit at outside the kitchen on the deck in bright sun at breakfast sipping our coffees. Some of our conversations can go on for hours here with seconds and even thirds on coffee so strong that thirds are only for those made of hardier stuff than me. But today, in contrast, there is a "gale force winds" warning, it is 48 degrees and yes, it is raining.

Mind you, I am not complaining, for a cold rainy day at the Vineyard is a far cry better than the same almost anywhere else, but it has been like dodging bullets the past week or so trying to make pictures. I keep the camera in the car ready to go. Plus the clock is ticking on my time left as I have just a few days. It is always like this, I am beginning to get some work done and I have to leave.  Visual ideas are coming as needed these days and this place is certainly gorgeous. But really, looking at it through the car's window isn't quite the same as being in it. But, like I said, I am not complaining. It has been exceptional as flat light can be gorgeous.  A lot of my landscape work over a long career looks like it was made in optimal conditions, but not this new work:

Update: I  am now back on the "mainland" for two days and fully immersed in a life with traffic jams, lines to wait in, deadlines to meet, people to see, emails to answer, book proofs to review, prints to make and bills to pay. Spending time on the island puts much of your regular life on hold, a benefit in some respects but a detriment in others. The character of the island makes you step off, disengage, take a vacation and recenter your daily life to a different set of priorities. To be honest, for me, much of the mainland goes away. Although, I admit, I did watch the Comey testimony last week, it came through with the peculiar filter of watching something distant as though coming from a different country, amazing to hear what he was saying but not directly important as I  wasn't really there, was I?

Ah, Martha's Vineyard. Thinking of visiting? Try it off season, spring or fall. It is even amazing during the worst weather months January-March although come prepared. Summer is a form of siege on the island, not my favorite.

Topics: Martha's Vineyard,New England

Permalink | Posted June 11, 2017

Boston Athenaeum

Boston Athenaeum:

The Boston Athenæum is one of the oldest independent libraries in the United States. It is also one of a number of membership libraries,[2] meaning that patrons pay a yearly subscription fee to use the Athenæum's services. The institution was founded in 1807 by the Anthology Club of Boston, Massachusetts.[3] It is located at 10 1/2 Beacon Street on Beacon Hill.

Resources of the Boston Athenæum include a large circulating book collection; a public gallery; a rare books collection of over 100,000 volumes; an art collection of 100,000 paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs, and decorative arts; research collections including one of the world's most important collections of primary materials on the American Civil War; and a public forum offering lectures, readings, concerts, and other events. Special treasures include the largest portion of President George Washington's library from Mount Vernon; Houdon busts of Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Lafayette once owned by Thomas Jefferson; a first edition copy of Audubon's "Birds of America;" a 1799 set of Goya's "Los caprichos;" portraits by Gilbert Stuart, Chester Harding, and John Singer Sargent; and one of the most extensive collections of contemporary artists' books in the United States.[4]

The Boston Athenæum is also known for the many prominent writers, scholars, and politicians who have been members, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., John Quincy Adams, Margaret Fuller, Francis Parkman, Amy Lowell, John F. Kennedy, and Edward M. Kennedy.

Source: Wikepedia

The Athenaeum has frequent exhibitions, showing works from within the New England region. Its current show, Called "Works on Paper" includes a couple of photographs of mine from Peddocks Island in Boston Harbor that I made in 2005. The library purchased the full portfolio in 2011.

Peddocks Island is on the gallery page of my site: here.

Catharina Slautterback, the library's curator of prints and photographs, chose works from the permanent collection for the show. This exhibition emphasizes recent acquisitions.

It is a very beautiful show. It is up through mid September.

Although the Athenaeum is a private library for its members, it is free and open to the public on its first floor. It is also one of Boston's great resources, practically across the street from the State House with real charm  and an old world presence. Never been? Seize this opportunity to see  some great art set in a great place, a retreat from the noise and fast pace in downtown Boston.

For more information go to: Boston Athenaeum.

Topics: Shows,New England,Vintage,Black and White

Permalink | Posted May 14, 2017