Topic: Southeast (5 posts)

Something New on Site

Just a quick post to write that I have new work on the site.

Spruce Pine: here

These were made in late May and early June (2018) while teaching at Penland in North Carolina. Each year I teach there I photograph in the early mornings in town before class, often with students. There are portfolios from 2012,  2013 and 2014 as well.

Menemsha: here

I made these in late June after returning from North Carolina. Menemsha is a small fishing village on Martha's Vineyard. Same thing: get up early, go shoot, every day.

Topics: Northeast,Southeast,Color,Digital

Permalink | Posted August 11, 2018

Follow Through

Golf swing, baseball's at-bat or throwing to first base, tennis, almost anything in  sports: I can remember my ski coach in high school yelling at me to "follow through!" in the giant slalom. Well, it's important in making art as well.

After three years of photographing almost daily every morning before class in Spruce Pine, NC while teaching at Penland School of Crafts, I approached the subject this year with genuine doubt that I could contribute anything new. When you've grown to know an area it is harder to eke out new material. But I went most mornings, sometimes with a few students, more often on my own.

Of course, the last time I photographed in the town it was 2014. That's a lifetime in digital photography and I was working a few weeks ago with a present-day camera which upped my game. Back then it was the Nikon D800E, a breakthrough camera with some serious problems. It had a tendency to vibrate, making pictures that were blurry. 

What did I find? This was work this time, the pictures not coming so easily, the fluidity of being in a groove harder to come by. I did make some discoveries, however, and learned that I didn't know this small town as much as I thought I did. I learned that I could speak in very subtle tonalities and colors, conveying huge amounts of information, that less can be more and that it isn't always necessary to scream your point. I learned to let the pictures speak, working to impose less upon them, as most good photography doesn't need to feed the photographer so much. Although working mostly with the same focal length lens as before, I worked to utilize its attributes better rather than to minimize its shortcomings. And finally, this was photographs made under no pressure, as there is no one beating down my door to see this work, no show I am working towards, no one, in fact, knows what I did. Very freeing, this. 

If left to your own devices and mindset, free from outside influence, what is your art like? Mine becomes quieter, as I am no longer looking for the "star" image, no longer thinking that I am a career professional with a reputation to maintain. I can be a student of the medium again. This is really it, the reason we do this, photograph so obsessively, looking looking looking. Let the picture come out, let the content drive the agenda instead of imposing yourself upon it. Become that kid in you, become that person seeing these things for the first time, wondering at what is displayed in front of your camera. 

This is what I discovered in Spruce Pine, North Carolina in the end of May and early June, 2018:


Want to see more? These, of course, are just the introduction. Want to see all the Spruce Pine work? Want to see actual prints?

Easy. Email me: Neal's Email.

Topics: Color,Digital,Southeast

Permalink | Posted June 24, 2018

Christmas Trees


Lying there in a field, thrown away, reminding me of Richard Misrach's dead animals thrown into a pit in Nevada under very suspicious circumstances. The series, called "Desert Cantos" starts off this way:

On March 24, 1953, the Bulloch brothers were trailing 2000 head of sheep across the Sand Springs Valley when they were exposed to extensive fallout from a dirty atomic test. Within a week first ewes began dropping their lambs prematurely– stunted, woolless, legless, potbellied. Soon full-grown sheep started dying in large numbers with the same symptoms — running sores with large pustules, and hardened hooves. Horses and cattle were found dead with beta burns. At final count, 4,390 animals were killed.

photograph by Richard Misrach

To be clear, Misrach offers no answers but uses these pictures to analogize about the atomic bomb testing the US did in this area in the 50's and 60's. Miscrach made his pictures in 1987.

The question occurs to me that I probably couldn't have or wouldn't have made these pictures of uprooted evergreens in a North Carolina tree farm if it hadn't been for Misrach's pictures serving as precedent.

I know, they are only trees, right? There is no real tragedy here. Or is there?

Think about this. I made these late one morning with a gentle rain falling in rural North Carolina in March 2015. We stopped, realizing what we were about to drive right past. Out in a field, uprooted, chopped down and left there what, to be fed into a chipper or buried like Misrach's corpses? What a waste. Sad, really.

Grown to be sold to be a centerpiece in a family's homage to Jesus Christ's birth on December 25th? Or, depending on your point of view, to be cut, bought, brought inside, covered in plastic lights, draped with fake snow and tinsel with gifts from Walmart strewn around its base to be ripped open by children in a feeding frenzy on Christmas morning. Hard sometimes not to be cynical.

I'd like to bend this work and the idea of life cut short into a piece about how our contemporary times ruin everything. How we live in a disposable society and throw what we don't want away. But it's just isn't true. This particular carnage of some evergreens in North Carolina isn't about "now" and the cheapness of things in 2015. For it is universal, isn't it? There is nothing particularly timely about these pictures. We've been ruining things since mankind started.

At any rate, I wrote this pessimistic view last week when it was rainy and cold and New England was relentlessly hanging on to winter. By Saturday the sun had broken out, the temperature was higher and I spent all day at the Griffin Museum mentoring photographers and looking at some very fine work that affirmed my point of view that there is good in humanity after all. 

It didn't hurt that I had beer and a burger that night with Frances and Paula from the Griffin. We told stories and laughed and life was good again.

Topics: Commentary,Color,Digital,Southeast,New Work

Permalink | Posted April 13, 2015

Marion, NC 2014

While teaching at Penland in North Carolina we took a couple of field trips. Three days after class started we went to Marion, NC to photograph and meet up for lunch. I had driven through the town on the way to Penland and thought it would be a good place for us to explore. We enjoyed the town and had a great lunch at Bruce's Fabulous Foods on Main Street.

I made a few pictures that day that whetted my appetite for more, so snuck away twice more, one on a slow afternoon when students were out working on their own and one other day after class was over.

I've posted the full series on the site at: Marion


Topics: Color,Southeast,Featured

Permalink | Posted June 17, 2014

Spruce Pine, NC 2014

On the site new pictures made while teaching at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. Taken in Spruce Pine every morning before class:

Go here



Topics: Color,Digital,Southeast

Permalink | Posted June 16, 2014