Boston – Financial district

The Boston financial district is close to Washington Street / Downtown Crossing which is the place I usually hang around for street photography. Few months ago I would get there in the morning for a serie about working people, mostly executives captured in their outdoor working environment. Actually I have a fair amount of pictures but many of them have faded away from my initial impression.

Not unlike in other US cities you can have a dramatic light in those narrow streets topped with high towers. So you came up with a similar result than some shots from Manhattan – though it is a rather small place in comparison. I have to add that the light in the Massachusetts Bay is often very good, very pure and sometimes can be fantastic.

I have somewhat gave up the ‘executive’ project. I believe it is  a good photographic idea, though not very original. It can work well but IMO requires some deeper thoughts to be convincingly worked out. Not sure “conventional” street photography is that relevant because it can be cliched here. Lee Friedlander did an interesting job about people at their work station in the 70’s. I believe it was here in Boston by the way, or more precisely in Cambridge at the MIT. But that is totally different thing, and in retrospect quite visionary if we consider how much we are chained to all kind of electronic devices today.

What remains from my initial ideas though is just the pleasure to take some good shots from time to time.

Near South Station


Near Faneuil Hall


Rephotography in North End – Hanover / Tileston, and conclusion

© Estate of Jules Aarons

The street sign on left is hardly readable, but one can distinguish “Tileston” and a quick look at a North End map proves it right. This is actually Hanover street viewed from North towards South. In between the two guys and blurred in the background there is a triangle shaped roof which is the very evidence of the correct spot, though not obvious on the re-shot.

When I did the rephoto there was an old man standing just behind, who lives here. I showed him the Aarons book and he was very interested and remembered about the  shop sign above in the Aarons shot. Then this old lady came to salute him and I showed her the book as well. She took a long time to browse the book, and was delighted by the pictures. I owe her to get the information I needed to spot the ‘Knights of Columbus’ and ‘Royalists’ shots.

The triangle roof is hardly visible on the re-photo but it is there, right below the ‘Italian…’ restaurant canopy. Instead you can see the high buildings of the financial district in the background.


To conclude:

It was a fun job of rephotography to do. One of the good thing is to give a sense of importance of the street photography genre. The simple fact that these old photographs have a unique power of emotion on people is a credit to be given to the genre as its practice is more and more criticized and hassled. I myself would love to find good old candid shots of me as a kid playing with mates in the neighborhood of my youth, but they probably do not exist. But the photographs have to be good and so many street shots we see today are not.

I tried my best to come up with most possibly accurate re-shot of the original photographs, but I did not manage to do that all the time. By the way it is a real challenge to re-do the exact same view, with same vantage point, framing, angle and perspective and regardless how the place has changed. I do not have the technical dedication for that.

For those interested here is a map of the 10 spots in North End:

Click on the image to browse the map

Rephotography in North End – just plain brownstone walls

This photo should have been one of the easiest to spot, thanks to the commemorative plaque “Right To Petition”. The place is familiar to me, obviously the Paul Revere Mall (better known as “The Prado” for local people).

Card players © Estate of Jules Aarons

But the fact is that this “Right To Petition” plaque has been removed… and there are about a dozen of other commemorative plaques on the south side of the Prado. Furthermore when I first get there nobody could tell me where the original plaque was. I could have looked after corresponding wall brick patterns, or better I could have asked to some official about that. But I finally sorted it out at home in front of my computer. When browsing the MIT library photostream I was lucky enough to stumble upon that shot that gave me enough clue to spot the exact place.

So here is the shot of the place, in 2010:

The spot is in a corner right next to the Eliot School yard. The Prado is enclosed by a wall that has the same recurring frame-like motif all around, but there is no commemorative plaque on that (north) side – at least not today – unlike the other side which has a dozen ones. I still don’t know what the “Right To Petition” plaque has become.


Another photograph from Jules Aarons shot at the Prado is the one below:

© Estate of Jules Aarons

Like I said the enclosure wall has the same repetitive motif all around, and for spotting this one I had no other clue than the brick pattern. Luckily the frame motif in the shot is shorter than the others, and I find it rather easily.

I am positive it is the exact spot based on the brick pattern of the upper right corner which proves to be the same, although the bench seems to have been discontinued on right since then. Note how the new pavement has made the bench shallower.

… so here we have just two empty old brownstone walls… but finding the spots was interesting.


Somewhat similar is the re-shot of the North Square playground, facing Paul Revere’s house that I have mentioned in my initial post about Jules Aarons.

© Estate of Jules Aarons

and the re-shot 2010, with similar perspective: