Friday, May 23, 2008


The Photographer's Eyes : John Ranard

Not everyone has them , these special eyes that see , thus not everyone can be a photographer despite what all the digitally empowered "Flickr" photo- enthusuiasts might want to believe . John was special , he really was a photographer .The real thing , a natural .His eyes were the eyes of a real photographer .

We knew John for several years and appreciated his very considerable talent . We spent many an evening at Ray's Candy Store discussing the world and all that is in it including photography.Wednesday ,May 14 , 2008 John died after a long difficult battle with cancer . John was 56 years old .

As with all who try to make their way in the world making and selling pictures John's life wasn't easy. He had one book published in collaboration with Joyce Carol Oates , " On Boxing " that is still in print . He had some other social documentry portfolios concerning prisons in Russia and also aids in Russia that he had shown . There is considerably more work that we can not possibly list that unfortunately has rarely been seen by anyone other than Johns friend's or fellow photograpers .

We do not have all the facts of his life so we will refer you to the recent "Villager " obituary written by John's brother Andrew and Lincoln Anderson .

We do though note here that on reading the" Villager" 's glowing account of his time working for the Villager providing him creative space to experiment , that John was not at all that happy with the Villager and the way that it had treated him . Though one big 2 page photo spread of his East Village squater days work was presented acceptably , in most cases his pictures were butchered , as were the pictures of most who contributed to the Villager , and also on many occaisions John had great difficuly getting paid ... indeed according to John he was not always paid . What we are saying is that there is some revisionist recounting of John's history at the "Villager " on the part of the "Villager" . These issues were a recurring theme in our many discussions at Ray's . We could commiserate having both dealt with the "Villager" over long periods of time .

Along with many others in the neighborhood we will certainly miss John .

As to the two pictures here , actually one ; we just couldn't decide which was most appropriate . We know John did prefer Black and White to color most of the time . It is one of the few pictures that we have of John. It was taken by street lights at 2:oo am , the morning of 24 June 2004 on avenue A at 7th street . We were hanging-out on the street with Biker Bill this early morning .

I was very sad to read this news in the Villager. I happened to sublet his 2nd St apartment from a Voice listing when I first moved to New York in 1995--John Ranard was the first New Yorker I met, so the bar was set pretty high. I always felt it was a privilege to know him and live among his photographs and books for awhile.
I met John in 1999, when I was looking for a photo to accompany an article about HIV prevention in Russia in the small newsletter I edited for a NYC non profit.

John really had an outstanding eye for the unusual. We used to joke that while he fought for recognition during his life, it would most likely come after his death. I hope he gets his photo book published--the world needs to see his striking photographs documenting the Russian AIDS epidemic.
Just saw him occasionally passing by--sorry to have missed him--Rest In Peace brother.
Dear Bob,
I'm interested in getting in touch with you regarding John Ranard's life. I'm a photo editor in a newspaper in Spain and we are going to write an obituary about him so I'd like to ask you something, if you please could send me an e-mail to:

Best regards and thanks in advance!
yeah, if you have a flickr account, you're not a real photographer. what everybody should do is hang out on Ave. A and take drugs and get drunk and talk about the good old days and how much everybody else in the world sucks and how society blah blah blah...BORING!
I was very glad to have known John Ranard personally. I really liked him. I sort of felt like laughing -- in a good way -- whenever I spoke to him. I was very proud that we had his photos in The Villager, of freegans, the East Village back in the bad old days, and everything else. I never knew he complained about some of the croppings of his photos -- that was usually done by our production people, not by me as the managing editor. Let's remember, a newspaper is a newspaper, not an art gallery. Sometimes (production people) take it upon themselves to crop in on a photo so it will reproduce better in a small space, i.e., a newspaper (or so they feel). Sometimes, they make the right decision in doing so. Bob, I'm sorry the big dollar bill that Loanshark Bob was holding in his hand was cropped out of your photo about 4 years ago. I tried to get our production guy to fix that before the paper went to print, but I think he was stoned at the time, plus not very adept at whatever program he was using on the computer. I really did try but he was about to have a meltdown. Eventually, he was fired. But let's get over it already for crying out loud! Again, a newspaper is a newspaper -- not the Whitney Museum -- though we try to be. Again, I was really saddened to hear of John's death. I happened to date a woman who knew his girlfriend -- and that's the only way I ever found out that he wasn't happy with some of the crops on his photos. He should have mentioned it to me directly...instead of just complaining about it at Ray's. As for payments -- that's our bookkeeper's dept. That's a whole 'nother story I don't have time to get into right now. The bottom line is we're a community newspaper on a shoestring budget for crying out loud but we're proud to be able to showcase the work of great neighborhood photographers.

A bit of revisionist history Lincoln . The Villager and you in particular gave John a very hard time . John and I talked about that frequently at night out in front of Ray's . I can also recall you making some rather unfavorable comments regarding John .

It wasn't just the exigencies of the newspaper production process that are responsible here ;It wasn't just the issue of cropping either , there was much more .You didn't care for John's work . You didn't understand it nor did you try to understand it Your policy was against John because of this . You did not treat him with much respect untill the end .When it mattered you could have helped him by publishing his work ...and paying him .

Don't try to blame not paying John on the book keeper .

Please let me set the record straight. I have never, ever, said anything bad about John Ranard, about you, or any other photographers who have shot for the Villager. Like I said, I personally liked John -- a lot. It really troubles me to hear you say that that is not true. I know how I feel about people -- and you can't tell me how I feel about people. I liked John and I respected him professionally, and that's it. Say whatever you want -- but that's the truth, and you have no basis to say otherwise, unless you are just trying to malign me, which I don't understand why you would want to do that or what's the point. I did care for John's work. He didn't submit work to me for long stretches of time -- he wasn't a regular contributor, but just sort of sporadic. Then when we launched Chelsea Now, I don't know I think it was two years ago, John very strongly wanted to have a page in there, a photo and some text that he would write, and we decided to call it "SEEN" or something like that. I almost put it on a color page -- and there are a limited number of color pages in each issues, so I would think he, or any photographer, would have appreciated that. From the outset, he really stressed to me that he didn't want the photos for that "SEEN" feature cropped. Our production people always are wanting to crop in on photos and highlight parts of them -- thinking they will reproduce better that way in a newspaper. Bob, I sort of have to agree -- in a small space, it is sometimes better for the presentation and impact of the photo to crop it a bit. That is, in fact, a big part of photo editing for newspapers -- making effective crops. But they, the production folks, were doing that, really, not me. Anyway -- I edited Chelsea Now for the first 16 weeks, in addition to doing the Villager, until it basically burned me out and I had to drop CN -- I wasn't getting paid enough to kill myself doing two papers a week. John specifically asked to be in that paper, CN, because he really liked the art world and Chelsea gallery scene, apparently. I was happy to have him be part of the paper. He was more interested, in fact, in CN, than the Villager. (Again, I edited both papers at that time.) Per his request -- we never, NEVER cropped John Ranard's "SEEN" photos! How is that disrespectful in any way??? I just don't get the criticism. I'm surprised to hear if from you now, and I was surprised to hear from my former girlfriend that John would complain about the presentation of his pix in the Villager. (She knew John's girlfriend, and he had complained to her -- but never to me!) Again, this isn't a fine-art gallery! It's... a.... newspaper! It's not even a fine-art magazine! It's a newspaper, in which photos print dark, colors bleed, etc., etc., registration is sometimes off (those are all problems with the printer). Add in that we are working often on deadline, that there are space constrictions, etc. On top of not cropping John's SEEN Photos in CN, I also edited his accompanying copy/text for these photos, which usually was, frankly, a real pain in the ass. He definitely, obviously had an artistic flair, I guess liked to write, and captured good nuggets, moments, info -- but his writing really needed a lot of editing. I did that, and I didn't complain about it. It was extra work for me -- no one said I had to do it, but I did do it. He wasn't a natural writer, but he wanted to write -- so I let him. In fact, I think he may have been a bit dyslexic or something based on his writing -- there was something slightly off about it. And maybe that's precisely why he did want to write -- because it had always been a challenge for him, yet something he wanted to do. And then I had to edit him, and it was a pain, but I did it. But from what you're saying, he was just pissed off about it all? So why the hell did I knock myself out doing it? Anyway, I really liked John, and his photos. I like you, and your photos. As Rodney King once said: "Can't we all just get along?" If the Villager was an art gallery, we could present huge prints of all the great photos on our walls that photogs send us. We're a newspaper.

P.S., once John came in here to discuss doing some photos for us -- maybe it was a year before he died -- and I had a good talk with him, catching up, etc. After he left, someone said to me, "Who was that guy? He looked like a bum." I don't want to say here who that was -- but it really offended me, and troubled me. No. 1, why would someone say something like that about somebody, someone who didn't even look like a bum anyway? and 2. I liked John a lot, and didn't appreciate anyone saying something like that about him. Why does someone look like a bum just because they wear a leather fedora? I don't get it.

I meant to say I "almost always" put John's SEEN photo on a color page, not "almost" did that.

Also, on subject of payments, I don't cut the checks here. I can pester the bookkeeper -- but he's the one who pays people.

This is Andrew Ranard, John Ranard's brother in Japan. I am presently working with a film producer and director in Tokyo and planning the possibility of a documentary film about John. Does anyone out there know of people who have film footage of John when he was alive? You can reply directly to me at

Thanks much,
Andrew Ranard
I was a friend of John's and happened to have hired him for different events multiple times. I cannot say enough about what a great person and what an immense talent John was. I am truly saddened at this news and will miss him greatly.
I thought of John out of the blue a few days
ago, now, three years after his death,
of which I was unaware. I googled him,
wondering if he was still doing photography
in Louisville, and found his obituary.

I can feel my veins vibrating with shock.

He was my first love in Washington, DC,
and he affected my life tremendously.
I still have the countless photographs he took of me.

When we were together those brief years,
he was tormented by so many things, and
struggled to find his path. I urged him to
do photography--he loved it, and I told him it was his gift.

The last I spoke with him was in the mid 1980's--we were both married to other people.

I wish I'd stayed in touch. Isn't that the way it often goes...
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