Topic: Review (10 posts) Page 1 of 2

New Review

Good Morning. I assume this will be my last post for a bit as I will have knee replacement surgery on 12/15.

Mark Feeney, the primary photo reviewer for the Boston Globe, has a review out today in the paper that speaks to works I have on display simultaneously at the Danforth Museum in Framingham, MA of the Pulaski Motel series (here

in Virginia and the Wheat work of mine currently at the Acton Memorial Library in Acton, MA 


Here is the pertinent part of his review: 

Also through Jan. 28, the Danforth is showing 14 photographs from Neal Rantoul’s “Pulaski Motel, Virginia” series. In southeastern Viriginia, Rantoul found himself driving past the Pulaski on a very hot, overcast day. This was in 2012. The motel, which had been closed for two years, would soon be demolished. The Ritz it was not.
The 14 black-and-white images are studies in gray. They’re 23 inches by 15 inches, which makes them sizable without being overwhelming. The motel looks evacuated as well as derelict. No one is visible by its doors and steps. There are no cars in the parking lot. Rantoul presents things from the outside — no inwardness here — and that’s just fine.
A couple of photos show rudimentary columns. Did the original owners want to evoke Southern plantation architecture? The sight of these forlorn-looking columns recalls Walker Evans’s differently forlorn photographs from the mid-’30s of ruined plantations in the Deep South.


There are also 14 pictures in “Wheat: New Photographs of the Palouse by Neal Rantoul.” It’s at the Acton Memorial Library through Dec. 28. The Palouse is a grain-growing region in southeastern Washington state. Rantoul has visited there to photograph nearly two dozen times, doing so for more than a quarter century.

Neal Rantoul, "Untitled, #28," 2023.
Neal Rantoul, "Untitled, #28," 2023.NEAL RANTOUL

The photographs are in color, with a dunnish yellow (the fields) and blue (the sky) predominant. People are nowhere to be seen, but the hills and fields have all been shaped by man. The setting is natural without being altogether natural.
The visual elements are simple and basic: sky, shadow, cloud, field. The simplicity is almost austere, but that austerity contributes to the grave handsomeness of these images. Eight of the photographs show the fields from above, the others from the ground. One of those is so close as to reveal stubble. It’s only then a viewer realizes how nearly painterly these photographs are, owing more to color field canvases, almost, than to the detail and specificity of agricultural photography.

I don't know the details of how a story is accepted by the Globe's editors, whether they always cut content for brevity or not. Still, it surprised me that Feeney didn't compare the black and White Pulaski series to the color wheat pictures in Acton. "Pulaski "is not a happy place, an abandoned motel slated for demolition photographed in fetid heat in rural Virginia versus the new wheat pictures which are about as utopian as they could be, pristine and isolated rolling wheat fields in a paradise pocket of the American West. Both in present day America, and both as about as opposite as I can imagine.

It was not my plan to have two series of photographs of mine shown concurrently in two local places but I was very pleased they were, for if you were to see one then the other I believe one would inform the other in truly wonderful ways. But further, I do not make my photographs without purpose or intention. If a series of works of mine have staying power it is because there is a critical view behind the work, a point being made, or a commentary on something being stated.

Topics: Review

Permalink | Posted December 10, 2023

Something to Live For

Something to Live For is the title of the Michael Hintlian show at NESOP (New England School of Photography): a title rich in possible interpretations. The show opened a couple of nights ago and is the last exhibition ever at NESOP as the school will close for good March 30.

Erin Carey, the school's director, chose Michael for NESOPs last show as he is a long-time teacher there and has had a major influence on hundreds of students, teaching with directness and a single minded concern for their becoming better photographers. 

The show is a befitting tribute to Michael's positive impact.

Came in the main entrance from the street, gallery on the left, two white walls at 90 degrees with bright track lighting above, single rows of analog prints on each wall of framed black and white photographs, matted in white metal section frames. 

Clean and minimal presentation.  

One doesn't or shouldn't scan a Michael Hintlian photograph. You don't "breeze by". One "reads" his photographs. The show is hung to support this. There is a rhythm, a pace, but nothing like a formal narrative and ultimately where they were made is not so very important, except to place us in America,  roughly in the present. Indeed, there are no titles, no statement. Clearly the photograph and its clean presentation is everything. A purist approach. Stand in front of a Hintlian photograph and first up you seek to find the point, the reason it is there, hanging on a wall in Waltham, MA in February 2020. That's not hard, there usually is a person or a few people, there is often a glance, a look, an expression, sometimes confronting Michael but then taken so fast before he/she can make a face, look away, avoid contact. Gary Winogrand did this too, so quick, there and gone before his subjects could react. These are fast photographs, no careful framing, no intellect imposing a carefully considered structure. Intuition plays its role here and experience too. Then on a longer look the rest of the photograph often serves as support of the main point, but there can be a whole other scene taking place in the background or over on the edge of the frame. This can form a comparative conversation, from one to the other. Hintlian's photographs can be deceptively easy, and then easy to dismiss, easy to say this one's about that. But a deeper read will provide more. It is clear he intends this, for the photograph to reveal itself under harder scrutiny, like peeling an onion, more to show us the more we look.

It must be said that this is not how people look at photographs today, swiping by in fractions of a second on a "device". Seeing no details, studying nothing.

Okay: first we see the man in front and center doing push ups in business attire, sweating presumably on a hot day, stains under his arms. A whole story there and clearly the major player that has us asking questions. But there is a chamber piece, as in Dvorak or a Bach Cantata, taking place in the receding space of the wall, two figures like slalom skiers working their way through the gates with the final end of the sentence being the thin stream of water in shadow flowing into the fountain on the far left, the tables and steps and small walls playing supporting roles to the overall image. 

Contemplation, meditation, acceptance, serendipity and magic can seem like odd words to describe these photographs.  But these are not just light little anecdotes, brief slices in time, incidental respites in a busy world. Good street work, and make no mistake, this is good street work, can appear choreographed or staged, seeming to be orchestrated content that makes incredible connections. Odd that something made so very quickly asks us to slow down and study it over time.  Of course, so many wish for this, for viewers to spend time with our work, form connections, see the metaphors and analogies in our pictures. Michael Hintlian's photographs require it.

Show is up through Much 6

Topics: Review

Permalink | Posted February 13, 2020

Eugene Richards

Forgive the incomplete sentences. Gene Richards... ICP (International Center for Photography)...big show...drove down to NYC yesterday to see it with friend John Rizzo... met up with former student Jon Sneden

and Penland studio assistant Mercedes Jelinek (I profiled her remarkable work here) We talked for a bit, catching up as I hadn't seen these two for a while and Mercedes had just returned from teaching in Italy for a semester. Then we went in to see the show... which completely stopped any conversation we might have.

Gene Richards, several rooms laid out in rough projects not always  chronologically....shot on film, strong and inky blacks, not always sharp(as if it mattered) but amazing short slices of time caught with something like instinct and intuition,

some poignant and crushing, this of his first wife Dorothea dying of cancer with his hand holding hers...

pictures so charged and powerful... so essential, stripped away of everything...

as time went on and we were looking at photographs from the 80's in this large somewhat retrospective show you could see Richard's approach changing, his pictures containing more and becoming more complex, while looking over his shoulder at Robert Frank, the clear precedent

where he even paid Frank homage in this of Robert and his son Pablo

and then to some of patients at a mental hospital in Paraguay with a river of urine on the floor of the ward reflected in the window light or this one of Dorothea laughing, a breast removed in the fight to continue to live, back and forth from projects for Magnum or on assignment to personal pictures made on a relentless drive to show, to peel back, to get down to the essentials of the human condition

using photography as the language to give us these gifts. Sobering really, how humans treat humans. War veterans returning home with parts of their bodies missing, shrapnel still inside them. One whole room in the show of color pictures, more peaceful and serene, looking like relief for the hard hard black and white work, not consummate work in color, nor need it be, but clearly there to share his need to take a break with us. A simply amazing show and an honor to be seeing these images he made.

Eugene Richards at International Center for Photography, Manhattan, through January 19, 2019.

Topics: Review

Permalink | Posted December 13, 2018

Shoot What You Love

Friend, colleague and former classmate Henry Horenstein has a new book out.

The book "Shoot What You Love"uses photographs from Henry's huge archive of his career's work and surrounds them with stories about the places, the people and the circumstances behind his pictures that are relevant, humorous, poignant and that deepen our understanding of this superb contemporary artist.

Henry and I were unique in that we we had our senior year as undergraduate students at Rhode Island School of Design together and then continued on for two years of graduate studies. That means I've known Henry since 1969! Long time.

If you don't know Henry's work, then you're in for a treat. The title "Shoot What You Love"  is the advice one our teachers, Harry Callahan, gave Henry in class one day. Henry had said that he didn't know what to photograph. Harry replied that if Henry shot what he loved, even if the pictures weren't any good, he would have a good time. Henry took this to heart as this is what he's done his whole career.  Country and western musicians, baseball, horse racing, stock car racing, burlesque, fish in aquariums, nudes, his family; a wide variety of interests, obsessions and preoccupations are topics for Henry with his camera.

Excuse the hyperbole but Henry Horenstein is one of the greats. With a lifetime  drive, Henry's an extensive traveler while holding a position as a professor at RISD in Providence. Callahan often taught us by example and it's a lesson Henry learned well. We knew that when he wasn't in class chances were pretty good he'd be out shooting or printing in his darkroom. Hell, we often saw him on the streets in the city walking with a camera around his neck. 

Any of these look familiar? Perhaps you studied  photography with one of these as your textbook. Henry is the author of over thirty books.

The new book?  Thick with pictures and content and a great teaching tool about what makes an artist tick with insight into where ideas come from. 

From "Racing Days" by Henry Horenstein

After attending a recent lecture last month by Henry in Boston to announce the new book, a friend and I got to talking about Henry's work and career. We noted that Henry embodies much of what many of us hold dear to our discipline. Independent and unclassifiable, he works at his own projects with determination and devotion, while being warm, outgoing, funny and affable. Henry clearly loves what he does. This is truly an exceptional photographer and artist and "Shoot What You Love" gives us access to the pictures, the stories behind them and shares the experiences and wisdom of a career's worth of photographing. 

"Shoot What You Love" by Henry Horenstein: not to be missed.

"Shoot What You Love" 208 pages, hardcover, $40 available Amazon, etc.

Topics: Books,Review

Permalink | Posted December 29, 2016

The Americans by Car

No, this isn't a story about a road trip through the US.

The Americans by Car is a new book of photographs by Karl Baden.

When Karl makes pictures he has a way of homing in on something and doing it for a long time. For instance he has made a picture of his face every day for thirty years. I think he has been making photographs behind the wheel of his car for a long time as well. Karl is a Boston-based photographer of long standing and teaches at Boston College.

This small book with few words relies on that amazing ability some photographers have to make pictures before thought and consciousness interrupts to ruin things. This is instinctual work and, I would assume, hugely quantitative to get just a few that work. Baden is also a sequencer in that a given picture will set you up for the next, let you out in one and pull you back in for another.

Of course, the title refers to Robert Frank's seminal look at the USA made in the 50's called "The Americans". Karl pays frequent homage, using American flags liberally, just as Frank did. Also, this review comes at a fitting time as Nathan Lyons died last week at 86 years old. Lyons was one of the founders of the Society for Photographic Education (SPE), the founder of the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, NY and the author of several books, the most significant to me, named "Notations in Passing" which is perhaps the foundation for the way that Karl works in his own book "American  by Car". Lyons and Frank were both engaged in being out in the world, on the street, inside a bar of cafe. 

Baden's working structure is quite different, however, just as the time is different and the country hugely different. He is always in his car, frequently we see the window frame acting as a frame within the frame. We also often see his rear view mirror pushing us back behind where we are looking, almost as though we are looking over our shoulder at another time, another perspective. 

I particularly like the off handed and informal approach, as though the picture gets made so quickly design and composition take second tier.

Of course, those photographs by Lyons and Frank were in black and white and Karl's efforts here are in color. I can't imagine The Americans by Car being anything but made in color as the photographs make distinctions, analogies and comparisons that rely on color to be effective. 

Karl Baden's work here lies firmly in the tradition of street photography but relies on his unique perspective, and the protection it affords, of being made from in his car.

Friend and colleague Elin Spring also reviewed the book: here.

The book is a superb look at our county in the current times.

The book is for sale from Karl at: 

and costs $42. 

Highly recommended.

Topics: Books,Color,Review

Permalink | Posted September 5, 2016