“Developing Boston: Berenice Abbott & Irene Shwachman Photograph a Changing City“ features the first joint presentation of work by two pioneering photographers of the 1930s and 1960s, capturing a Boston in the midst of great change and redevelopment.
Abbott’s 1934 photos and Shwachman’s 1959-68 images capture many of the same locations 30 years apart, including the Old State House, Faneuil Hall, West End, Beacon Hill, and Adams Square (now Government Center), with some locations and buildings still recognizable today, others utterly transformed by redevelopment. They also include historical images of “New City Hall” and the Prudential Tower under construction in the 1960s.
Leah Rosovsky, the Boston Athenaeum’s Stanford Calderwood Director, said, “For anyone who loves exploring the modern history of Boston and the evolution of photographic technique and composition, ‘Developing Boston’ promises to be a rich and inspiring experience. We are also so honored and excited to partner with and showcase the teen photographers of Artists For Humanity as we work to deepen the Athenaeum’s connections with people from all of Boston neighborhoods and present new perspectives on our city and its history.”
Abbott and Shwachman shared personal connections while using differing approaches to photographing the city. Abbott studied Boston from a distance, with direct views or angled vistas. Shwachman, a onetime student of Abbott’s, photographed alongside and served as Abbott’s darkroom printer, amending her teacher’s approach by photographing Boston through a personal, subjective lens to highlight the city’s dynamism.
“By examining the works of Abbott and Shwachman in conversation, Developing Boston explores how each photographer viewed, dissected, and preserved Boston as it evolved throughout the twentieth century. As Abbott employed her documentary practice to create clear sightlines between the past and present, Shwachman developed her practice to signal towards Boston’s uncertain future,” says Lauren Graves, Ph.D., assistant curator at the Boston Athenaeum. “The documentary approaches of both photographers, whose work has never previously been presented in a joint exhibition, shine together to present a side of Boston’s buildings and public spaces that would have otherwise been lost. We hope that this exhibition helps Bostonians and visitors alike to find their place in the city.”
Boston Athenaeum has partnered with Artists For Humanity to select and exhibit contemporary images of Boston made over the last two years, bringing teenage AFH photographers and their visual take on Boston into conversation with the works of Abbott and Shwachman.
“Boston Athenaeum was so invested in the teens’ vision—from start to finish,” said AFH’s Photography Director Mary Nguyen, “They trusted that the teens were the experts in representing their own city through their lenses. The teens felt empowered, embraced, and celebrated as artists, and as young people, by such a historic institution and a great partner.”
“This will be the first time having my artwork in an exhibition outside of AFH,” said AFH Teen Photographer, Victoria “Tori” Kutta. “Being able to tour a famous place like Boston Athenaeum, where thousands of people visit, and then exhibit my own photography there—it’s surreal!”
AFH’s Studio team is so proud of their artwork, now added to the Athenaeum’s collections, continuing Abbott and Shwachman’s photographic story of Boston.
Developing Boston: Berenice Abbott & Irene Shwachman Photograph a Changing City is on exhibit until December 31, 2023
The Boston Athenaeum 10 1/2 Beacon St. Boston, MA 02108
The exhibit is open to members and first floor ticket holders.
What the heck…
Are Those Even Cameras?!
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