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.

Jules Aarons (1921-2008)

Today I stumbled upon a fellow Bostonian street-photographer. Sometimes we bump to each other  near downtown crossing and it is nice to have some chat about photography or whatever. He showed me some prints of very nice shots he did. He grew up in Boston and is of Italian origin. He told me how Boston was back then, with the Irish and the Italian boys fighting each others. It was him who told me about the exhibition of photographs from Jules Aarons at the public library few months ago, a Boston-based street photographer whose body of work spanned from the late 40’s to the 70’s. I went to see that exhibition after he told me about it.

Aarons did a lovely work, especially on Boston’s streets. His work is in the vein of Cartier-Bresson (who was a strong influence) but to me is even closer to Helen Levitt. Actually photographing kids in the street seems to have been one of Aarons’ favorite theme (alas a motif which is likely to be much less documented nowadays), but it is especially his ability to capture body language in a very poetic way that reminds me Levitt. Also his stylistic approach is very ‘classic”, as opposed to e.g. Garry Winogrand. Hence a strong nostalgia vibe in the photographs.

It is quite exciting to look at a body of work done decades ago in the place where you live. Some of the photographs he did can be located very precisely (who said street signs are “distracting objects” ?…) and you can play the game to go back and give it a try.

By the way I found this one that I did recently :

… not being aware that Aarons stood almost at the same place to do this photograph more than 50 years before.

Playground with flag pole, North End © Estate of Jules Aarons

Well… the one from Aarons is way better than mine… Not sure the pole is still there by the way, probably not. I’ll check it out next time…

And by the way my friend who told me about Aarons first could be one of the kid playing in that North-End playground in the Jules Aarons’ photograph…

Jules Aarons was a Boston University physicist who was an internationally known expert in the study of radio-wave propagation.  He was also an acclaimed photographer whose work is in the permanent collections of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and Paris’s Bibliotheque Nationale.  Aarons was born in 1921 and passed away in 2008.