My RISD Graduate Portfolio

1973. I'd wager this is before many of you were born. Graduating from the RI School of Design with a Master of Fine Arts degree in Photography. We were told to make two copies of our thesis portfolio, one for the Department and one for the library. I did just that, although many did not.

I drove down to Providence a few weeks ago and got to look at mine for the first time since 1973.

Now housed in the library's archive, mine was mounted prints on 16 x 20-inch museum board sitting in a portfolio box.

(forgive the roughness of the imagery. I had to shoot the prints with my iPhone. and then square them up in Lightroom).

These were made 50 years ago. 

All shot with the Rollei SL 66 and the Carl Zeiss 80mm f2.8 Planar lens. 

Photography in those days seemed to be, for me, a large dose of high-end craft combined with imagery that was primarily graphic with strong blacks.

There were 14 photographs in the portfolio.

I can remember thinking after I'd graduated and the portfolio was finished, I might try shooting with more distance. I think this was developmental, learning perhaps, in the early days, to move in tighter then later I could let more air in my pictures. As it turned out, I did just that, shooting landscapes in northern Scotland one summer four years later that were expansive.

And so it goes. Of course, I would have been offended should anyone suggest in 1973 that I wasn't fully formed as an artist. Little did I know how much there was still to do.

Topics: Black and White,Analog

Permalink | Posted June 28, 2022

RISD Portfolio

Starting in about 1966, the RI School of Design Photography Department held a competition each spring for students to be in the annual photography portfolio. The student group that pulled this off was the Photographic Education Society (no relation to the much larger national organization of the same name).

If accepted you had to make 150 copies of your image and mount them on the provided board. Of course, we all wanted to have our work in the portfolio. I was fortunate to have work of mine accepted in 1972.


Brian Pelletier

One of the benefits was that in the portfolio were photographs by both Aaron Siskind (by 1972) and Harry Callahan,  two of our high profile teachers. If accepted you got one copy of the portfolio. I think they sold for $150 each. This got you 25 prints from different undergraduate and graduate students plus several photo faculty.

I was looking over the three (1967,1972, and 1975) that I have and almost all the imagery is in black and white and most of the photographs are predominately straightforward. The printing style in those days was heavier, contrasty with deep blacks and bright whites. This was 30 years or so before digital took hold, and color was taught in one class as an elective. Printing color was slow, hot, unhealthy, expensive, and few bothered. "Art" photography was a black and white medium then and color was for reportage and perhaps advertising (think Life Magazine).



At any rate, looking at the prints from these portfolios gives us a glimpse of an earlier era. Photography as a form of creative expression looks, at least to this artist, like it was still evolving, contained primarily within straight imagery and straight prints. In those days making a good print was an accomplishment. A medium still exploring our world, with a camera in hand or on a tripod, the photographer going out to make discoveries and imagery mostly found or come across by chance. Studio, constructed, assembled, blended, configured, set up? Not so much. Our job in those days seemed to be to make art where we found it. 

Harry Callahan

Teaching: I would walk into class with a black 11x 14-inch portfolio box under my arm. I would ask the students to sit in a circle. I would then hand each student a mounted print from the portfolio. Once they each had one I would ask them to study it, as I was going to ask them to talk about it as if they had made it themselves. An intro student talking about a Callahan or a Jim Dow or a Linda Connor with no idea who those photographers were. After each had a chance to speak, some getting into the role-playing and some not as much, I brought them into a few of the photographers' works they talked about. This exercise was a real eye-opener for some students and I used the tactic for many years.

Jim Dow

Ed Sievers

Finally: for those of you that read the blog that are researchers, historians,  and curators who want to see more, you can find copies of all the portfolios that were made in the RISD library in Providence. If I can be of any help please contact me directly: here

Topics: Commentary

Permalink | Posted May 22, 2022

Martin Parr at Boston College


I saw the superb show of the work of the British photographer Martin Parr this past week at Boston College's McMullen Museum and recommend it highly. Fellow photographer and teacher at Boston College Karl Baden has brought us a large sample of Parr's photographs made over his career. Cleanly and with excellent text that contextualizes the work, we go from the late 70s up through 2005 or so and are shown specific projects along the way, from early days with small analog black and white prints up through medium format large color inkjet prints. We are taken on a journey of Parr's interests, including many pictures from Ireland, unflinching and in-your face-pictures of demonstrations, family get-togethers, people on the street, a visit by the Pope, and photos of monuments and famous tourist destinations made with a wry sense of humor.

Excuse the hyperbole but I found the work in the show to be a confirmation of photography itself. Parr's pictures affirm that, although it may feel like the world is going to hell in a handbasket, there is good in the world, for his spin is mostly positive.  That things aren't perhaps as bad as they seem. 

Parr's role as acute observer takes great discipline and this show presents us with work that speaks to his efficiency and wonderful ability to find things that hold our interest in unexceptional circumstances. For Parr, pictures are everywhere. 

Parr is a commentator on our human condition, with a decidedly British take. 

Take a practiced and perceptive photographer, put him/her in front of places of interest peopled with a broad cross-section of humanity,  add in some wit, irony, a strong sense of design and a fine color sensibility and you might have Martin Parr, clearly one the very best working today. I only wish the show gave us more current work, for what is there seems to stop about 2005.

Many photo shows these days leave me angry and frustrated, feeling that photography has lost its way, missed its inherent capabilities and attributes while being taken up by artists that bend it, mold it to make imagery that I don't have a clue about, personal and political pieces that I don't relate to. But there is wonderful work to see. So far this year I have seen this and the Frank Armstrong show at Fitchburg Art that confirm that photographs are being made that are superb.

Thank you to both Frank Amstrong and Martin Parr and the curators that brought them to us. 

More info?

https://www.bc.edu/bc-web/bcnews/art-and-culture/fine-arts/mcmullen-presents-martin-parr.html

through June 5

Topics: Commentary

Permalink | Posted May 16, 2022

For Sale

This may come as a great shock to you, but my work is for sale. I know, you've been reading the blog for some time and it never occurred to you but yes, the blog is part of a marketing strategy intended to increase awareness of my work and to promote sales to collectors, galleries, curators in charge of museum purchases for their permanent collections and finally, for exhibitions where the work would be for sale.

And yes, if you've seen something of mine here or on the site or in person at an exhibition that you like, what better thing than to reach out to inquire about buying it? 

Easy. This can be handled in person by you coming to the studio in Acton, MA or, if you're not local, work can be shipped to you.

The blog will continue, BTW. I have no big plans to end it. I am thankful to you, dear readers, for your continuing subscriptions. I know many of you have been with me for a very long time. 

The preferred method for inquiring about purchasing my work is to email or call my daughter, Maru, at Insight Arts Management:

m.rantoul@gmail.com

978-496-4901

She can make an appointment to see the work in person and/or make arrangements to send it to you.

Note: Some of the earlier black and white series have limited availability as 

they were made in pre-digital days on film and printed by me in the darkroom. Therefore, the originals are not easily reproduced and series works cannot be broken up as they are in narrative form. This is one of the downsides to working serially in that, in order to maintain series cohesion, the prints must remain as a set.  In recent years I have not broken up these series and if one goes into a collection, all the prints must go.

If interested, you may, of course, buy a whole original series or, I can sell you a high-quality inkjet print of the scanned original. The former? Expensive. The latter: much less so.

All my work since about 2005 has been digital capture and made as archival inkjet prints. Therefore, easy to make and reasonable in cost. I do edition work, btw. Having something infinitely reproducible just doesn't make sense.

Interested?  The clock keeps ticking and I am genuinely old now at 75. Who knows what's ahead but I am in good health and happy to show you work if you    come to my studio in Acton. Or, if you can't do that, look over the imagery on the Gallery page of the site:

www.nealrantoul.com

If you see something you like, reach out and we will discuss it. I look forward to hearing from you.


Topics: for sale

Permalink | Posted May 7, 2022

Moses Lake 2

Odd. You would think the short series called Moses Lake 2 would be preceded by Moses Lake 1. But it is not.

Let me give you a little context. In the 90s I was steaming on several fronts. Still shooting in black and white 8 x 10, I was making yearly trips to photograph in the wheat field country of the Palouse in eastern Washington. But I was also shooting with the Superwide Hasseblad mostly handheld.

In those days I often would fly west to Seattle or Portland and drive back east in a rented car to Colfax or Pullman, which served as a base for ten days or two weeks of photographing in the wheat fields.

Washington is a big state and, once over the Cascade Mountains, it is dry and desert-like. Inevitably, after several of these trips driving east I was going over the same territory. Driving on Rt 90 I would go right through Moses Lake, a small town in the middle of the State. In the mid-90s the town was experiencing a housing boom. As I was photographing all sorts of housing in those days, I stopped to photograph one development under construction where, I learned, the builder was able to put up a house a week.

Moses Lake 2 was the 2nd time I'd photographed homes under construction in Moses Lake.

The two prevailing characteristics were the water tower and the incredibly black pavement which had just been rolled out, in fact, hot under my feet.

I made Moses Lake 2 prints on Kodak Polymax paper 11 1/2 inches square. They are over matted to 16 x 20 inches and are available for viewing at my studio in Acton, MA by appointment: here.

Oh yes, Moses Lake 1? Didn't make the cut.

Topics: Black and White,Analog,Northwest

Permalink | Posted April 24, 2022