Topic: New Work (42 posts) Page 1 of 9

Working Again

I don't know about you but making art has been a challenge for the past couple of months. However, I am working again and it feels very good.

Let's see: I'm not telling you anything you don't already know but Caronavirus 19 has killed almost 91,000 people in the US alone. Staggering.

On a more personal note, my older sister died in February, just before all this took place. Looking back at her death it seems like a kindness she went when she did. My daughter, granddaughter, two dogs, and I have left our two apartments and are now living together in a new home in Acton, MA; me in an apartment over the garage and them in the main house across an atrium. Moving during this pandemic has been difficult but we are healthy and happy with a large backyard, spring is sprouting up all around us, there are many boxes to unpack, yard work to do, lawn to mow, on and on.

I wrote earlier about the Mannequins work, here. Back when things were moving faster and I had much to do, the Mannequin pictures got left behind, as shows loomed and a new book was in design. But since my forced "retirement" the past two months, it is this work that has been on my mind. So, for no reason other than needing to get work printed and seen, I have been working on the Mannequin project.

Let me state at the outset, that all the old rules no longer apply. I'll explain. I was taught that there were protocols and systems for the presentation of photographs as art. This was art at the highest of levels, to be shown and collected in the best museums. Work that raised the level of consciousness of the medium of photography to new heights. Stieglitz, Walker Evans, Bernice Abbott, Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, Friedlander and Winogrand, Atget, Cartier-Bresson, Callahan Siskind, to name a few. Usually, a small photograph, most often in black and white, mounted on museum board with an over matt in a simple black frame or stacked in a portfolio. But with digital tools coming online earlier this century all this started to break down. 43 inch print with white surround and pink background? Sure, easy. An image as a poster?

Why not? If you can think it, you can make it.  What a tremendous concept.

Those old rules were valid at a time when photography itself still was relatively new, discoveries in photographic imagery were frequent and exciting. Now we have far more maturity, there is really little that presents as "never seen before". Yes, even true when digital is added in. So, therefore freedoms unheard of just a few years ago are prevalent now. As they should be.

The two mannequin pictures above are now being mounted and will hang on either side of a large TV in my new place. What a pleasure. A new place to live and a blank slate for an artist to make and show his art. All while social distancing and trying his damndest not to get sick.

Be careful and be well.

BTW: I will be speaking this Thursday, May 21at 5 pm about my Monsters work for the Gallery Upstairs, sponsored by Bob Korn Imaging on the Cape.

Topics: New Work,New Way

Permalink | Posted May 20, 2020

Ghost Town

Odd really. Downtown Boston over this past weekend. For someone who likes to photograph cities without people, perfect.

But what a reason for being vacant! Coronavirus changing our world.

I can't help but think of the photographs I made in downtown San Jose CA in 2018 in comparison. Also mostly empty but not due to some apocalypse, just an early Sunday morning in March.

San Jose

San Jose

San Jose

Boston yesterday was cold, windy and empty.

I think of these being made right now in this crisis as loaded,  charged with the weight of our societal predicament, our world being changed in profound ways.

As a kid,  growing up during the Cold War, I was fascinated and horrified by films like "On The Beach" and "Red Desert", depicting empty city streets, a world devoid of human beings after the nuclear holocaust. 

An empty city is an easy "get" for a photographer to comment on our current situation. Making pictures of an absence or a lack of something is an old ploy, a teacher's effort to try to push students to deal with making "something out of nothing". 

If you've followed the blog for a while you know I have been photographing the effects of disasters for several years. These include the obvious ones such as Paradise, CA and the mudslides in Montecito, but also more subtle series such as Half Mast Oak Bluffs, made in reaction to the shooting in Las Vegas a few years ago. These new photographs of downtown Boston fit into that mold.

It is the sheer scale worldwide that is so staggering about our current disaster and so very unprecedented. For most of us, the fires in California or Australia, the Katrina or Puerto Rico hurricanes, the tsunami in Japan and so on were "over there", terrible but not in our town, not on our street. This is different. This is everywhere.

Stay healthy, heed the CDC's guidelines (not so much our president!), go for walks and bike rides in areas where there are few others. We'll get through this. My heart goes out to all of you in this very difficult time.

Topics: Black and White,New Work

Permalink | Posted March 23, 2020

Stuck

Stuck at home, along with everyone else. Thank goodness I have photography. I am writing this the day after Governor Newsom required everyone in California to shelter in place. I wonder if my state, Massachusetts, will follow suit.

At any rate, ever since we had our poster party at the studio in February I have been obsessed with making posters of my photographs.

Let me see if I can explain why. For many many years, I have made my work mostly in series. When printed, these end up in a portfolio box, often with a title page, sequenced and numbered, sitting on a shelf with other boxed sets from the same year or two. Undoubtedly some photographs in a particular series are standouts, some are linking images from something to something, some are introductory, some act as bridges and some are leading toward a conclusion. That is the way I work. These are photographs made in narrative form.

All well and good.

But, what happens to a standout image from a series? What happens to the one or two that could stand alone? Would I separate, show or sell a single image from a series? Well yes, but with reluctance. When a museum acquires work from me I most often try to make the sale with the museum purchasing a whole series.

Up comes the idea of posters: mine are beautifully printed, nicely laid out (either by me or a real designer), printed on demand and affordable. Usually 24 x 30 or 32 inches. They sell for 50 bucks. 

Partially marketing, partially publicity, partially increasing name recognition, partially getting my imagery into peoples' hands cheap, simple enough. And, it helps solve the problem of how to make a single image stand on its own.

We know how ubiquitous posters are. Go to your insurance agent, your bank, your medical facility, your lawyer's office. It's posters. Sometimes terrible and sometimes quite good.

How good are these? Really good.

I've got a problem though. I can't stop making them. I just made a new one yesterday. I love laying them out, using color picker in Photoshop, clicking and dragging, making a test print, tweaking the file or changing the background color and then final printing the new poster, using an image or a group of images no one's ever seen before. 

I must have over 20 by now. 

Want one or two (or three or four)? Easy. Email me: here, telling us which poster(s) you want. We will print them, roll them up and send them to you in a tube. You can mail us a check or give us a credit card # for payment. We will charge you $50/poster and a few bucks for shipping.

 I put all the posters up on the site (www.nealrantoul.com) so you can see what is available. This project is adding a little democratic process and entrepreneurial spirit to the purchase of art. 

Because of our unique state with the coronavirus, your order may be delayed. We will let you know when you place your order via email. 

Topics: Color,Black and White,New Work

Permalink | Posted March 20, 2020

Fruitlands


Austere

Spare

Reduced

Minimal

Straight

Neutral

Fruitlands is a Museum in Harvard, Massachusetts that I've been photographing on and off this winter (Website). A project I seem to have backed into somehow. Odd really.

Let me explain. Most ideas for projects and places to photograph hit me over the head. This one crept up on me. 

Over the Christmas holidays, my daughter, granddaughter and I made an excursion out to the museum on a weekend afternoon. As we were walking from building to building I couldn't escape the openness of the place, its beauty, sitting just down from the top of a ridge, the whole place looking out on a vast expanse of New England. Later, during a crisis in my family of epic proportions, I found myself driving by Fruitlands on my way to another project every few days. I thought if I could make pictures there it would be good. The Museum is closed in the winter so I sought permission to photograph. It was granted and so I began. Many thanks, Fruitlands.

Note the square and black and white. I hate making a big thing out of a small one, but being able to work square and to see the edge of the frame accurately is a very big thing to me and both the Nikon and Sony I use allow this. This is a dream come true for this photographer. I can make pictures that fit into the mold poured years ago in series such as Nantucket, Yountville, Hershey, Portland starting in the early 80s. You'll see these if you scroll down to the bottom of the  Gallery page on the site. 

At any rate, this has been mostly a no-snow winter so the ground is bare, the trees are barren, the landscape is reduced and brutal. Odd for me, not knowing if this was working and the methodology supportive of the outcome. Initially, I wasn't sure if this was a project or not. 

Well, it has become one now. Making new pictures has become an organic process for me, making photographs in projects or series. Partly intuited, partly thought through. The plan for this is to be a comparative piece. As a foundation, establish the severity of the grounds offseason in winter, then counter with flat out spring; lush, verdant and colorful, the remarkable transformation of the seasons.

Of course, there is still much to do. I will shoot a few more times under different light and different times of day as well. These are harsh pictures I know, but after all these years I  have to trust my process. The thinking behind my photography can easily fall into a "what I am" versus a "what I could be" logic and not something I have an inclination to either change or spend time on at this stage in my career. Quite simply, this is what I do.

What purposes do these pictures serve? What are they about? The photographer Harry Callahan said this wonderful thing, “It’s the subject matter that counts. I’m interested in revealing the subject in a new way to intensify it. A photo is able to capture a moment that people can’t always see.”

My sentiment exactly.

Topics: New England,Black and White,Digital,New Work

Permalink | Posted March 4, 2020

Valley Trees

I returned last week from my second trip to Northern California to photograph the effects of the Camp Fire in Paradise.

As I start to make prints from the shoot I realize I was seeking to connect with the place in a slightly different manner than before. Partly documentation and partly an artist's response, the work reads more personal and selective.

An example is these, called Paradise Valley Trees:

This career artist doesn't always know why he's doing things. That sounds bizarre I know, but it is true. I discover things from the pictures I make. Yes, I made some conscious decisions here: convert the camera to 1:1, make the files in post into black and whites. So, I was working towards higher specificity in these pictures.

But there needs to be chance, discovery, unpredictability, accident, surprise, intuition in our work. It isn't all intellect and control.

These trees, serving as symbols for so much more, standing guard, doomed to be cut down and heading for the chipper, scarred and charred, killed by wind and fire on November 8, 2018.

Prints are 12 x 12 inches. I suggest seeing them in person: Neal's email

Topics: Black and White,Digital,West,New Work

Permalink | Posted November 25, 2019