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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

Rephotography in North End – A matter of metal gates

This rephotograph is the most interesting of the serie in my opinion, and the most moving also. I was rather sure that the metal gate in the photograph from Aarons has been removed, because I would have noticed it before, for sure. There are a couple of still existing similar gate in North End, but not like this one, and not in such street arrangement.

© Estate of Jules Aarons

So I was not very positive to be able to spot that one. But the old lady I met in Hanover street recognized it at first sight, and she told me where to find the place.

I like the rephoto in its own right, though I am very few responsible for it. What was an open public pathway is now a private parking lot. The intriguing thing is that the metal fence that was put in place the old gate looks like the oldest thing in the 2010 shot, whereas it is the most obvious difference and ‘new’ stuff compared to the older shot. The (very nice) metal gate that was before seemed to be a more definitive and long run achievement, so that a comparison of the two pictures brings a somewhat confusing sense of time frame. Another detail worth the attention is the fence inside, along the building on right which is twisted today the exact same way that it was more than 40 years ago (though it is hard to figure that out on these small jpeg file)

The “KC 1513” on the “newer” gate stands for “Knights of Colombus”, the order that owns the place and has local HQ in the building on right.

Rephotography in North End – Salem street

Here is one easy to spot.

© Estate of Jules Aarons

The building behind is an old power plant, unexpectedly found in that rather busy neighborhood. Here is the place today…

… which has few changed actually, except that they removed the street signs which are now on the opposite corner of the crossing. The curb has been leveled down also, and one mail box has been removed (there are two mail boxes today but both on Prince street).

The re-photo is rather boring, but it is a good spot for street photography. Here are two shots I did, before the re-photo project:

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One of the most known photograph from Jules Aarons could be this one:

© Estate of Jules Aarons

It has a strong 50’s vibe and looks like it was captured on a film shooting. By the way it is amazing how the guy on right looks like Marlon Brando whereas the other guy could be James Dean…

I spotted the place by chance. One clue was the “Freedom Trail” sign on right. The freedom trail is a touristic pathway that goes through Boston historical places. In North-End it reaches Paul Revere’s House, then goes through the Prado up to the Old North Church before heading North towards Charlestown leading to Bunker Hill. But I did not even need that since right after doing the Salem/Prince re-photo I stumbled upon the spot little upper in Salem Street, close to the old church. That was the specific wall design which is similar to that of the power plant that gave me hint.

This is now the main entrance of North Bennet Street School.

Rephotography in North End (3)

Here is the ‘solution’ for re-photo #1

Napoli Square © Estate of Jules Aarons

Napoli Square, 2010

Note that the “Gus P. Napoli sq.” sign is likely to be the very same old plaque, but has been moved a little on right, possibly when they changed the pavement.

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When I did the re-royalist shoot there was a man behind me, sat on a bench and smoking a cigar. We said ‘hello’ and I told him a little about what I was doing. He got interested in the Jules Aarons book I had with me. I told him I was able to spot many locations of the North-End pictures in it, at least most of those I was looking for, except that of the cover. Actually I was not sure the cover image was shot in North-End because unlike those inside the book there is no caption. But it looks like North-End and thought myself it was probably shot there. I have tried to figure it out in the Paul Revere Mall before but failed. Very surprisingly that man was able to spot it at first sight, with quite an accurate information about the vantage point, which is quite amazing when you look at the photo and know what the place has become since then (that man was not that old, about 50 or so)

© Estate of Jules Aarons

The background part of the playground in the Aarons photo is now the private playground of Eliot Elementary School, which is located in between the Revere Mall and Charter street behind where it has its main entrance. The very background behind the fence is the Revere Mall indeed (“The Prado”). Across to the ground there is now a fence that separates the school playground from a parking lot, which is always completely filled with cars (parking is a nightmare inside North-End, and nearly impossible without resident permit).

Here is an approximation shot at 17mm focal lens on a cropped sensor (i.e. 26mm equiv 35mm film). Not sure what lens Aarons had on its TLR camera, but I assume it could have been around 35mm instead (in equiv 35mm film).

Rephotography in North End (2)

This photographs from Jules Aarons is known as ‘Royalists’ in the book Into the streets. Not sure what royalist could mean in the very context of the USA, it is a bit strange and sounds to me rather as a joke…

Royalists © Estate of Jules Aarons

At first sight I thought it could be hard to spot this one. Although the place is rather specific, especially with what looks like a stoup behind the woman on left, but actually there is no such a place with an outdoor stoup in North End today. But I found this one thanks to an old woman I met in Hanover street. She was delighted and moved by the pictures in the book. She grew up in North End and lots of what she saw was familiar to her. She gave me precious indications for some spots, including this one. She identified in the Royalists picture what was actually the public baths of North End back then. So instead of a stoup it was rather a stone-made sink, which has been replaced y a simple public water fountain.

The building behind is now the home of the Nazzaro Community Center.

Rephotography in North End (1)

I have been in North End, on the footprints of Jules Aarons for doing some rephotography. I took the book “Into the streets” with me. It includes a selection of street photographs made by Aarons in Boston between 1947 and 1976 mostly in West End and North End. Finding the places he shot in West End is nearly impossible today because the area has been heavily refurbished (“revitalized”) since then. There is very few left of the old buildings and the street plan has changed completely.

But on the contrary North End has evolved very smoothly, and I was able to find 9 corresponding spots.

Some were very easy to spot and I knew them before (such as the playground near North Square). For some I needed to make my brain work a little, and some others I got external help from local people. And by the way that was the nicest part of the job, I will elaborate on that later on.

So to begin with here is one shot I did:

Jules Aarons rephoto (1/9)

… and what I suggest is that you find out the corresponding photograph from Jules Aarons. It is rather easy to look it up using Google.