Topic: Martha's Vineyard (32 posts) Page 1 of 7

The Show Addendum

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.  

Like the story? Comments? Let me know: Neal's Email

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Topics: Martha's Vineyard,New England,Black and White,Analog

Permalink | Posted October 8, 2020

Is This Ironic?

As a career photo professor and a professional "intro to photo" teacher, I got this question a lot. "Irony" was often an early assignment in my beginning photo classes. Took students a while to grasp exactly what this was. Hence: "hey Neal, is this irony?"

What got me thinking along those lines is that something happened today that was ironic. I am on Martha's Vineyard for a couple of weeks and bought one of the island papers (The Vineyard Gazette) this morning while food shopping. Reading it over lunch I turned to page 2 to find this:

(apologies for print-through)

An aerial I made a few years ago of the small island called No Mans Land off the Vineyard's coast on a flight from New Bedford. The paper paid me $25 for the picture(!).

There was my picture of No Man's Land in the local newspaper and where did I  find myself this afternoon? Shooting No Man's:

albeit from a slightly different angle. Of course, I didn't make the connection until I'd downloaded what I shot. (This shot with the Nikkor 200-500mm f5.6 on an RRS tripod, at f8. Nikon D850.)

IRONY: happening in the opposite way to what is expected, and typically causing wry amusement because of this: [with clause]: it was ironic that now that everybody had plenty of money for food, they couldn't obtain it because everything was rationed.

source: Apple dictionary

Photo can be so cool. Love comparisons, analogies, multiple images to make a statement, create a line, draw attention, or tell a story.

Topics: Martha's Vineyard

Permalink | Posted October 3, 2020

The Show 2

In The Show 1, I wrote about making pictures for an exhibition I had on Martha's Vineyard in 1995. In this one, we'll take a look at some of the work and I'll explain the foundational logic I used in making the pictures.

As the years accumulated I photographed sites built and unbuilt that were being managed by VOLF. In the properties where there were no buildings yet, I began to feel that there was a larger reason for the photographs being made. After all, my photographs would have historical importance as a record of what the land looked like before anything was built on it. While I still photographed the beaches and along the shore I found myself exploring much more of the interior of the island. Plus, VOLF was providing access to some incredible sites that otherwise I couldn't get to. 

The very poor and very old photographer Eugene Atget photographed "his" Paris in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in reaction to increasing industrialization. The Paris he knew well was being changed forever by the automobile and electricity. He took on the task of documenting the city to record it for posterity. They are some of the most poignant and heartfelt photographs I have ever seen.

I carried in my mind many of his indelible photographs as I photographed all over the island. The late 1980s and early  1990s were a time of massive increases in building on the island. I was now on a mission to document parts of the island before they were changed forever. 

Plus I was using the current day equivalent of the camera he had used, a large-format 8 x 10 camera on a tripod, making black and white pictures by developing a few sheets of film at a time and printing the pictures in my darkroom.

This was a new and heady experience. Using my photographs for something more than self-expression, meaning that these pictures were far less about me and more about my subject and the photographs' place in time.

Let's stop here. Let me set the stage for the next one, The Show 3. I'll bring us to the exhibition that opened August 2, 1995, in Edgartown at the Martha's Vineyard Museum and some of the drama around it.

Topics: Martha's Vineyard

Permalink | Posted September 23, 2020

The Show 1

The next few posts will take us through the story behind the one-man show I had at the Martha's Vineyard Museum in Edgartown, MA in 1995. The reason I am writing about this now is that I am donating the full show, 21 prints, to the Museum in a couple of weeks to be included in their permanent collection. 

In 1987 I became a tenured associate professor at Northeastern University. I was the head of the Photography Program in the Department of Art And Architecture. Along with tenure came a release from the pressure of being in what's called a "tenure track" where your every step is scrutinized and criticized by senior professors in your department prior to applying for tenure. 

 Now that I was tenured I found myself thinking about my photography a little differently. Somehow, I was now legit. My University had voted unanimously to approve my promotion, all the way up to the President and the Board of Trustees. With real job security, I could do some things that might not bring me much exposure to critics and curators but might benefit others.

I started by donating my services and photographs to various nonprofits. The first one of these was on the island, called the Vineyard Open Land Foundation (VOLF), an organization formed to manage open land on the island, to advise owners on how to build with sightlines that obstruct less and so on. I noticed that their visuals in their publications were terrible, as they were snapshots made by staff members on site visits. So, I made a presentation of my work to their board, suggesting that they might take me on, at no cost, assisting me with access to their managed properties and let me loose. The idea was that I would make pictures, show them to the board, then they could use them should they wish. Gratis.

That is just what happened. 

I had photographed on the Vineyard for my whole career, and still do, but this put some real purpose behind my work in those years.

Over the next several years I photographed in all seasons, often being taken to a site VOLF wanted to have included in the survey.

I am going to end this segment here but let me finish by saying my photographs were used by VOLF for publicity purposes and I even mounted small shows of my work in their offices from time to time as well. Finally, I took on the design and production of a high-quality poster for them that used a landscape image of mine (the one you see above) and a top graphic designer from a prestigious firm, all pro bono.

Next up in The Show 2 we'll get to the show that hung in 1995 and to some of the work in it.

Stay tuned.

Topics: Martha's Vineyard

Permalink | Posted September 20, 2020

Some New Work

Martha's Vineyard. South Shore. Early spring 2019. Park car. Gear up. Walk out to beach. Turn left. Go down there a ways. Small stream, running from a spring back behind the dunes on the other side of Moshup Trail across the beach and down to the ocean. Classic.  The fresh water turning orange and gold below its surface. A world in the sand and rocks. Sunlight reflecting in the ripples of the water. Stop and look, for a miracle is taking place in small scale at my feet.

What to do? Shoot it, again and again, and again.

Witness. It's all that is needed. Yes, there is a camera involved and yes, it is me standing there in bare feet reaching out and pointing the lens down, so simple really.

Try it all different ways.

Timeless. Not trendy or current. Not necessary to build that logic, that rational. I don't have to make a case for these as I am just a witness, a conduit to the miracle. These could be made 40 years ago, although God knows photography is almost a different language now. It is that good.

Just pictures. Of course, that's like saying a Mondrian is just lines or Keith Jarrett's solo piano at the Koln Concerts is just notes. Hey, not boasting. I did very little here.

Look: farther back than making "art", farther back in the frame of references like student or professional or accomplished or expert, farther back than motivation or reasoning, farther back than any logic or system you may have, there is this: do you need to make things, to create? Do you have a requirement to make work?  Is that in you? Is making pictures the defining characteristic of your life?

All kinds of categories here. Hobby, pastime, pleasant activity, entertaining, pretty, decorative, passive, intense, driven, compelled, obsessive, aggressive, uncompromising, possessed, willed.

What do you want? Fame, praise, approbation, sales, acknowledgment, acclaim, admiration, a lasting legacy? And are these the kinds of things that motivate you to make art? I've written about this before but do you make your work by calculation or make it because it's in you, part of who you are?

I recognize aspiration, the desire to be something you are not or haven't arrived at yet. I get that. But what is there in you that you haven't found yet? And how are you going about discovering and using your creative self? And watch out: tread lightly here because there are many false prophets, looking to take your money and your heart.

I think you need to know who you are, comfortable in your own skin in order to be an artist. Not to say there isn't torture, angst, doubt, guilt, recrimination, insecurity rising its ugly head from time to time. 

Last, I believe we live in an age and place where art is not revered or respected, it is misunderstood and maligned. At least in this year 2019 in the US of A. More: not paid attention to, not important, not acknowledged. Terrible.

A topic for another time, perhaps.

Be well. 

Next:  the finishing, transporting, hanging of the American West show the 27th and then the 29th, a ten-day trip to shoot Wheat in Washington. Hope you will read along. Should be good. Looking forward to the "same but different" out there, this my 20th trip.

One more:

and one more:

the beautiful walkway to the beach.

Topics: Martha's Vineyard

Permalink | Posted June 9, 2019