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Boston Up: Infrared Photographs by Neal Rantoul


Image courtesy Neal Rantoul.

The Harbor and Channel Rooms at BSA Space feature a collection of architectural photographs from Neal Rantoul exploring a look up at Boston from the summer of 1982.

Statement from the artist:

When I made these photographs in 1982 I was teaching both at Northeastern University and Harvard, was newly married and had a baby girl, a German Shephard and a new house my wife and I were rehabbing in Cambridge. Fast times.

But I was an active, practicing artist on a tenure track at Northeastern. I had to keep my photography going, had to publish and exhibit my work.

Hang on, we’re getting to the Boston Up pictures. I had been using a Kodak black and white film for a while that was sensitive to the infrared part of the spectrum.

Because it saw where I couldn't, I never knew quite what it would do. I learned to embrace this characteristic eventually but the fact that the images were very grainy and only available in the small format 35mm film size was limiting my ability to make big prints. Bigger size film allows bigger size prints of higher quality. In the Kodak Professional Catalog I found a film called 2424 Infrared that was available in the 70mm film size, mostly for aerial photography.

So I tried this film. The rest of the story involves many false starts and a great deal of additional testing. This entailed loading the film into the Hasselblad 70mm film back I’d bought, going out to make pictures, coming back into the darkroom to develop the film and see what I had.

This is where Boston Up comes into play. In testing the new film I found myself that summer heading to downtown Boston from Cambridge where I lived. As this was a several week process Sunday mornings were good as traffic was light and parking was easy. I could roam the streets unhindered, standing there with this odd-looking camera, pointing straight up and clicking away.

It didn’t take long for me to begin to be invested in some of this work, for the film gave an odd glow to things and had a surreal look. During that summer, I went from testing a new approach to working on a new series that would end up being exhibited and published frequently over my career.

The prints hanging here were made by me from scans of the film and then printed by an inkjet printer. These prints were shown most recently at a show of the work at Boston City Hall in 2010. While the infrared film is no longer made, digital sensors for present day cameras can be modified to be sensitive to infrared light.

Questions, comments, want to see more work? Easy, get in touch at: [email protected]

Don't miss the opening reception for Boston Up on Wednesday, January 30 at 6:00 pm. This special event is an opportunity to explore the exhibition while enjoying complimentary drinks.

Associated exhibition programming

Opening reception
Wednesday, January 30, 2019 at 6:00 pm
Artist talk and tour
​Wednesday, May 1, 2019 at 6:00 pm

About Neal Rantoul

Neal Rantoul is a career artist and teacher. He has taught photography since 1971. He is an emeritus professor and was head of the Photography Program at Northeastern University for 30 years and taught for 13 years at Harvard University. Rantoul has work in numerous public and private collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston); the DeCordova Sculpture Museum and Sculpture Park (Lincoln, MA); the Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA); the High Museum (Atlanta, GA); the Kunsthaus (Zurich, Switzerland); the Center for Creative Photography (Tucson, AZ); and Princeton University (NJ). He is the recipient of many awards and grants, including a Whiting Foundation Fellowship; a Lightwork residency (Syracuse, NY); RSDF, FDP and IDF grants from Northeastern University, a residency in Hofsos, Iceland in 2013; and he was a finalist twice for the Massachusetts Cultural Council award. Rantoul was an active member of the Board of Directors of the Photographic Resource Center for six years, serving on its Executive Committee for three years and is on the Board of Corporators at the Griffin Museum of Photography. Since retiring in 2012, Rantoul has been teaching workshops, traveling, publishing, and making new work. In the spring of 2013 he had simultaneous shows at the Danforth Museum in Framingham and another at Panopticon Gallery in Boston of new landscape work. A new book of his writing on his own work and others came out in 2015, called: Neal Rantoul, Essays on Photography. After showing work from Iceland at the New England School of Photography in Waltham in January 2018, Mr. Rantoul spent the month of February aerially documenting the extensive fire damage in Southern and Northern California. He also has a new book out called Trees, Sand and Snow. He taught again last summer at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. For a gallery of his work and an active blog where he writes about his work, reviews other photographer’s shows, and books published on photography, visit