Topic: New Work (45 posts) Page 1 of 9

Nantucket 2010

Long time since my last post. Mid-summer now.

Long, hot, and bright summer days. A family reunion on Martha's Vineyard last week with a graveside speech at the family plot in Chilmark eulogizing my sister who died two years ago. 

I've been spending most days in the new studio enjoying its solitude and its central air. 

In 2010 I made a set of pictures from Nantucket on a visit to see friends. This way of working-walking, looking, positioning myself, wide lens, black and white, flat gray daylight-an often practiced system well-oiled over the years.

Started really with Fences and Walls 1979 but polished and fully realized with the Nantucket pictures from 1980:

©Neal Rantoul 1980

Of course, it makes for an unusual shoot, holding one set of pictures in your mind while shooting the same way in the same place 30 years later.

Clearly, the same but different.

Nantucket 1980: Hasselblad Super Wide. Plus X film and not printed till three months later. My career ahead of me. The next year I would marry and start the tenure track job at Northeastern. These pictures an epiphany, showing a path for a whole lifetime.

Nantucket 2010: Nikon D3X, 14-24 mm Nikkor  Free as a bird, wrapping up a teaching career of almost 40 years, soon to retire. 

Photography is firmly established in a digital realm. 

Apologies for going there but my ex-wife, Micaela Garzoni, died suddenly a few weeks ago, at 66 years old. For a brief time, she was into photography, studying at the New England School of Photography and then getting her Master's degree at MIT. The next year she showed her thesis work at the ICA (Institute for Contemporary Art). My daughter Maru and granddaughter Skye struggling to deal with the loss. Hard to lose a parent.

A thirty-year span of time, these Nantucket pictures. A couple of people that are no more. As constant as things can seem, the same year after year, it's a lie for time marches on and we end. Simple enough. A lesson learned? You bet. Do it now. Write it now, make some epic pictures, compose it, paint it, whatever it is that you do,  do it now. And don't keep it in. If it's good, get it out there, make sure others see it and wrestle with it. Tomorrow is no sure thing.

Have I hit a chord? Tell me: nrantoul@comcast.net

Topics: New Work

Permalink | Posted July 14, 2022

Life Intrudes

As much as photography is large in my life,  there is "other". As a younger man, I believed photography constituted an escape, a way to divert away from all that noise and tune into something my own that was positive and beautiful.  

But our health issues cannot be denied and I went in late last week for a heart-based procedure that produced less than favorable results. A consult with a heart surgeon this week should decide my fate. I am looking to be less out of breath at the top of the stairs to say nothing of being able to tackle hills on my bike. 

We've had quite a year. From unfathomable numbers of deaths and misery to art-making held in check, such a loss of momentum that it makes one wonder if it will ever come back. I did what I always do when my tank is empty.  I kept working. And, I've made a few, although not a continuous stream of ideas made into real things as before, but prints in a box on a shelf, nevertheless.  

I look a lot. Driving, doing errands, getting by with too much streaming, not enough people to hear different ideas expressed. As I move around: yes, no, maybe, needs different light, a different season, I want that but can't stop here, more an accrual of single pictures than before when one was connected to the next for a series.  Simple really. Maybe that's it, we are addled, out of sorts, unable to concentrate or hold focus. But, it's good to look, to be on the hunt. Proves continued involvement. I've gotten to know a new neighborhood (I moved a year ago). What a pleasure to go around a corner to find something new. I lived in Cambridge and Boston so long there was not much new. Acton, Concord, Stowe, Maynard, Hudson, Marlborough, and so on.  All good, rich. As I've learned, it is a region of water: streams, rivers, ponds marshes and swamps.

Been a time to retrospect too. I am struck by just how much things matter and then later how little they do. When younger there were always students, crazed to soak up experience and knowledge, to hear stories, and then hand them down to others. Now, not so much. Non-photo and non-art family not so interested so who to listen and look, who then?

Soon, back to the usual, pretty much. You can see it on the trip to the market, to filling up, to going to work out. More and more vaccinated, feeling safer.

Leaving you with these: 

photographs © Neal Rantoul

All are from either Martha's Vineyard or Chappaquiddick.

Topics: Northeast,New Work,Digital,Color

Permalink | Posted May 23, 2021

Field #2

Here goes:

I’ve been riding a lot. There are great bike trails here. I live in Acton MA since early April (the Assabet and Bruce Freeman Rail Trail are right here).

I’ve never been a great rider and hills used to be agony. But with practice, it all becomes better.

I no longer dread the climb out of the little valley I live in each morning. And I am riding longer. This all feels really good. I ride daily now early before it gets hot.

At any rate, I have seen some tremendous material as I ride. If I had a camera would I stop? Maybe I could bring a camera, I thought. Or come back with a car to get close to shoot what I’ve seen? I’ve brought the Sony on the bike a few times, but, although lighter than the Nikon, it is still pretty bulky and fragile so it sitting at the bottom of a backpack doesn’t seem like such a great idea. One time I saw something along the edge of the river, stopped, ran the bike into the woods, got the camera out, started shooting and the bugs found some fresh meat and tore into me. I now ride with Cutters.

Today I did things a little differently. I’ve had my eye on a field for a while. I first discovered it last week at the very end of the Bruce Freeman trail, tucked deep into the woods.

There is another “Field" on my site:

https://nealrantoul.com/projects/field

Made a few years ago behind the Medfield State Hospital. This one made me think of that one. I know we are doomed to repeat past successes but this new field was truly gorgeous and could not remain unphotographed. Both these fields hold rich pasts, histories of events, and uses.

I figured I would do a scouting trip. Bring a camera. Try to drive as close to the field as I could, park, bring the camera and if I wasn’t parked too far away I could hike in. I might make a few pictures. The light was good, it was just after a thunderstorm and the air was thick and the foliage was wet.

I drove around for awhile using as a base West Concord, trying to parallel the bike path and get as close to this field as possible. The field had no road or trail going into it that I could see. I found a place to park near to where I thought the field might be, loaded up the Nikon with one lens, a fresh battery and a tripod strapped to my back and off I went.

About 1 1/2 miles in there it was. Surrounded by trees, it was an old baseball field, some nets for soccer and/or batting practice and maybe lacrosse (?), recently mowed but very overgrown around the perimeter. What had started out as a scouting trip now might prove real.

I walked around and took pictures.

A magical place, resonant with its past use, which seemed to be high school sports. This field belonged to a school that had moved or folded at least moved its athletic field, a mystery here for sure.

After an hour or so, tired from holding the giant of a Nikon, tired of my glasses fogging up, sweating and tired and thinking that I wanted a beer ( a sure sign of waning interest) I turned around and headed out and slogged it back to the car, to ac, to home, to a beer.

I will, of course, have to go back as these are never complete with just one pass anymore. When I was younger I’d blast through one in a couple of hours, sometimes on the road, and never look back. Now, if I find something hot like this, I’ll book into a motel if far away and hit it again the next day, hoping the weather won’t change too much. I used to worry more about continuity.

As there are no rules any more continuity seems like less of an issue.

I will hope for tomorrow for more shooting.

I have over the past few weeks determined that I have a cause. I am tired of good work reaching no acknowledgment. In fact, good work not seen doesn’t exist, really. (There might be a lesson in there for you too). I will endeavor to make my good work be seen.

There may be an opportunity here. Curators not curating, stuck at home. We will see.

Finally: This is a little different, yes? I am showing work in process, something I don't do much. Usually, I show work just completed or go back into earlier work. This is work not even printed yet and maybe not even fully shot. I am trying to show you the process here, not just the end result.

Thank you for indulging me.

Addendum: Since writing this I have been back to the field several times to photograph. Different approaches, different light, different times of the day. The series is now becoming large enough to become a portfolio when printed. Can't wait.

Stay tuned.

Topics: New Work,Digital,Color,Northeast

Permalink | Posted June 21, 2020

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