Topic: Northeast (60 posts) Page 1 of 12

Gravel

Note: I wrote this in late 2016, have edited it now-2018-and believe it is still relevant. I never published it til now.


A while ago I wrote a blog (here) about some new work I made under the pseudonym Marc S. Meyer. In it, I took us into his personality and medical issues, I interviewed his theoretical wife and described the circumstances behind his motivation to make the Gravel pictures (you can see these here). The post was about his motivation and his excitement at making them but didn't really get us inside the actual pictures.

This post will.

Landscape photography: has a bad reputation. And for good reason. So much "yawn" work out there, so many one-shot wonders, so much overdone, overcooked, over sharpened, over HDR'd and just poorly made. Is this simply an idiom that is over? A manner of making photographs done to death and steeped in such tradition, history, and genealogy that it just isn't relevant or interesting anymore? Meyer's new work of gravel pushes back against just this idea. His theory goes like this: traditional landscape photography is over (remember this is supposition), so, photographing great landscapes is not of interest anymore. Shoot something very prosaic like mounds of gravel and imbue these with the same awe, monumentality and universality and you may have an effective commentary on our collective plight. This is the present paying for past sins, isn't it?

Overfish the incredible wealth of George's Bank, the fishing grounds off the New England Coast and what have you got? No more fish. Not so good: a severely overfished resource, making for government quotas, catch limits and federal agent monitors on boats. Go down to the fish market in the harbor of Menemsha, on Martha's Vineyard where there really isn't a "fleet" anymore, and a good percentage of what is there in the cases came from far far away, maybe even another continent.

Same principle with these new pictures.  Marc doesn't believe the idiom is dead he just thinks there has been little work that's been productive or real thought put into it that he's seen in recent years. 

So, photograph nothing (or as little to nothing as you can find), invest in loading the quiver full of emotional, romantic and spiritual arrows that hit bullseyes, make beautiful prints, display them and publish them to gauge the effect. The results could be HUGE (sorry, couldn't resist, writing this as Trump headlines the news every day).

As I look at these new photographs by Meyer I am impressed with their formal rigor, yet I am struck by their light touch and the number of connections they make. Yes, this is classic picture making but it also is very new as the subject's been removed. Marc believes it makes sense to minimize content so as to allow his efforts to come through.  I find this inescapable in his pictures.  I am now looking at what he's done to something, pure and simple. Accuracy? Fidelity to the original? Literally true? No, not interested, it would seem. But still largely representational. The only analogy I can come up with is it is like being hit over the head with a felt-tipped hammer. Not such a big deal until it is. There is a metaphor in here, and it centers around the idea that we're done, its over, we have fucked it up. How did I get to that? Just look at the work (here). Utopian view of the days ahead, sweetness and light, a better world just around the corner, messiah-like predictor of wellness, opportunity and prosperity? Or an admission that there is nothing truly new, significant, monumental or pure to photograph so we have to make due with what we have.  Hard to keep an attitude of the glass half full these days, isn't it? Marc's sense would seem to be that we need to invent new definitions for things, new ways of approaching, new ways of thinking about where we live and what we do as the planet's primary species possessing the biggest brains and the capacity to destroy everything in our path. Let's be clear, this plight is unique to us, no other animals have wreaked such havoc with where we live.

Back to earth and Marc's pictures of gravel next to a supermarket in mid Massachusetts made on summer afternoons. This is, after all, what we've got. 

In having a beer a couple of weeks ago with Jamie Stringfellow, the editor of the newspaper the Martha's Vineyard Times, she made the somewhat provocative statement, as an islander, that she partly liked what the island was becoming. More year round, better food, stores staying open more through the winter months, more culture, lots to do in February as well as in July. Of course, traditional Vineyarders used to hunker down in those winter months. Want a quart of milk and live "up island" off season? 20-minute drive at least. All that's changing, along with mega homes in the thousands of square feet and a large service industry springing up to provide services for the rich and mega-rich.  And the expectation that what there is on the mainland should be on the island too, at a cost, of course. 

My point. Change is endemic to where we live, how we live and what our priorities are. We will give up to get, yesterday's priority forgotten and tomorrow's on the horizon. In relationship to our medium of photography, it's easy to predict the demise of the use of the traditional camera, the SLR or DSLR, even the mirrorless may be on the block soon as Apple and Android take over those functions. 

And, oh yes, what does the gravel pit look like now in 2018, almost two years later?

Hobby Lobby

Topics: Northeast,Color,Digital

Permalink | Posted March 25, 2018

Human Representation

I don't know quite what this is. This compulsion to photograph human beings in representational form. Cabelas had some, Mutter Museum yes, in dissected form, Reggio Emilia, yes, and certainly the Monsters work. And now Mannequins also. The latest content for me is in a few banners on Liberty Island in New York,  that depict what a new Museum under construction near the Statue of Liberty will look like.

At any rate: to the photographs.

This shown to establish where we are. The Museum under construction, and one of three banners to publicize it. This is what I did:

You can see that things dissemble pretty quickly, as these are just inserted into the file, the same as fake trees or vehicles are imposed into architectural renderings.

Although distant history, preserved as a jpeg, presumably these started out as actual people. Model releases obtained? In the public domain? No idea.

What can you infer about us in our present-day society from these pictures? Just the other night I saw the film 12 Strong. While watching the film I found myself thinking that CGI is now so good that we no longer can tell where actual footage depicting actors on location ends and computer-aided imagery begins. These figures on the banner at Liberty Island are a lot cruder but still where does that woman with the bag over her shoulder exist? What is her story and where is she now? What a remarkably dehumanizing thing to do, to pluck these people out of their lives and place them in a banner like this in an architectural rendering.

Liberty Island, New York Harbor.

Topics: Northeast,Color,Digital

Permalink | Posted February 5, 2018

New York 2

I spent last week in NYC. The first post(here) looked at riding from Boston and back on the Acela train to Penn Station. In this post we'll take look at what I did while in New York.

Although the museums were wonderful, seeing the Stephen Shore show at MOMA and going to the Whitney (which I hadn't been to since it moved), I was on a mission to find some material for a new project. This was research. I ended up in the  Garment District and was often refused permission to photograph. But I made some important connections so have enough leads to be able to go back in March and do some actual photographing.  I also saw my former student Jon Sneden who is very dialed into the fashion world in NY. He lives in Austin, TX now but was back east for a show and said, when I asked him if he'd be able to help me with the mannequins project, "Of course, let me do something for you for a change". Enough said.

At any rate, being a photographer, I photographed.

Mannequins, mostly, although the middle one is a wig form in styrofoam. This probably stems from the Monsters work (here) I did a few years ago, but mannequins are the current passion. I am learning as I  go along. I leave next week for California to photograph in a used mannequin warehouse in Oakland. More to come on this soon. 

To finish up New York, the next day I took the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. It was brutally cold and windy, with a cloudless bright blue sky.... but gorgeous.

I know, these are just a few snapshots from my time there. I found Ellis challenging and look forward to going back to work it some more.

And the Great Lady herself:

Did I make any pictures that I would deem worthy of calling "work"? Maybe. Stay tuned.

I love New York.

Topics: Color,Digital,Northeast

Permalink | Posted February 4, 2018

New Book

I am very pleased announce that a new book of my photographs is just out (December 2017). Called Trees, Sand & Snow (TS&S) it builds a rational around the idea of  "connection" by linking three separate series of photographs into chapters. These are accompanied with short essays authored by me.

The book is photographs I made a year ago; two bodies of work from Martha's Vineyard and one from a skate park photographed during a snowstorm in Cambridge, MA where I live.

Trees

Sand

Snow

Sometimes the planets align. This is the first time in my career that I've connected specific series to each other to draw analogies and to make a larger whole. The process has been tremendously challenging and rewarding.

I arrived at the idea for the book a couple of weeks after I turned 70. This book is my first that leans heavily on my writing. Since starting the blog several years ago I've worked at become a better writer. Each chapter in TS&S starts with a short essay about the premise of the work and my belief that photographs can connect in both obvious as well as subtle and profound ways.  My  hope being that this would promote readers looking at other works of mine to seek similar connections and then perhaps lead to a deeper understanding of photographic essays in general. 

TS&S is 61 pages, 9.5 x 8 inches, in soft cover and elegantly designed by Andrea Star Greitzer. 

We have printed the new book in limited numbers and I will fulfill orders and ship books myself. Please email me directly if you'd like one (nrantoul@comcast.net). I will sign each book. They are $36 each, plus shipping.

Topics: Books,Digital,Northeast

Permalink | Posted December 13, 2017

New Camera

I have a new camera. If you've read the blog before you know it isn't very often that I discuss equipment. Mostly it seems not so significant to me what kind of camera is used. But there are shifts occurring once again in the industry and this new camera, a Nikon D850, is one of the new tools in digital photography that is moving us ahead.

Edgartown, MA

Although it is difficult to show how good images are online, this 300% crop shows little noise and is quite detailed:

My previous camera, a Nikon D810, had been my primary picture maker for several years. A very good camera, it made files that I could count on:  for quality, for color, for tonality, dynamic range and for sharpness, even at quite big sizes. It wasn't perfect but it never failed me and got the job done, really all I could ask for in a camera in which to make my art.

Since I've only had the new camera a week and made just a few prints, I can't speak to its inherent goodness yet. But it feels right and its MP size is significantly larger, which should allow bigger prints at higher fidelity. Odd that we are so very dependent on a tool to make our pictures, but that's photography.  In my analog days, I was dependent on three tools to make my pictures. Early on the Rollei SL66 was front and center in the 70's, then the Superwide Hasselblad. Then I was wedded to the Toyo Field 8 x 10 for 25 years, connected at the hip to a large, cumbersome and very heavy camera and the three lenses I used ( and the tripod to mount it on!). Now I can get virtually as high a quality image with a camera I can hold in my hand and sling over my shoulder. Dreams do come true sometimes.

Current thought seems to be that large chip DSLR  days are numbered and I can believe that. The D850 is too large and heavy. I also use a full chip mirrorless Sony camera (A7r MK ll) and find it very nice to travel with. It is not as refined as the Nikons but nevertheless capable of wonderful files.

Simply enough, the bar is now very high in terms of the equipment we can use. We are at a high level of maturity in digital imaging and the devices are increasingly sophisticated and impressive in the quality of the results. Is the hype we are barraged with everytime a new camera is announced a true guide of its significance? No, but this one, the Nikon, and the new Sony A7r MK lll are genuine steps forward, I believe.

I have already learned, for instance, that in order to capture everything at the highest of quality you must make sure this new Nikon is held steady. Bring your A game to this tool for it requires it. Marginal quality lenses will not cut it either.

So, my apologies for coming down to earth to speak about equipment in this blog. I assume most of the photographs I'll make for a while will be from this new camera. I am looking forward to sharing new work made from the D850 Nikon with you.

Stay tuned.

BTW: I'll have prints of these images and others at the Allston Open Studios coming up in December.  Hope to see you there.



Topics: Camera,Northeast,Digital,Color,New Work

Permalink | Posted November 29, 2017