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City Limits

In the 1980s I became involved in a project photographing the neighborhoods of Boston. There were four of us, Bill Burke, Roswell Angier, Kelly Wise and myself.  The project was partially funded by Polaroid Corporation, and had the support of Boston City Hall mayor’s office. The end result was a book, City Limits: Images of Boston in Transition published by Northeastern University Press.

As well as a stipend, Polaroid gave us cameras and unlimited black and white positive/negative film. Approximately twenty percent of the images in the book were shot with Polaroid materials.

The City of Boston gave each of us a letter of introduction. I made about fifty copies of that letter and carried them whenever I was photographing. These were invaluable as they opened doors for me that ordinarily would have been off limits to a photographer. For example, I never would have been able to ride in Rapid Response police cruisers without that letter.

All four of us photographed in all the neighborhoods. However, we were each responsible for four neighborhoods. My neighborhoods were Back Bay, the South End, Roxbury and Mattapan, very disparate areas.

A neighborhood is a social and moral concept. A neighborhood is a cohesive community within a larger unit (a city) with some common identifying features such as economic condition, social status, national origin or religion. The local churches, libraries and cultural and recreational facilities define those distinctive features. 

For me, this experience in the different neighborhoods opened up a totally different Boston from the one I thought I knew. It was immensely rewarding both personally and photographically. I am grateful to the people of Boston who helped me, and in some cases opened their homes to me. In doing so, they amplified my life.
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