Lawrence_

Last summer I went to an exhibition at the MFA by the great Japanese artist Hokusai. One of the most interesting exhibits was his 36 Views of Mount Fuji, a series of prints depicting Mount Fuji from different angles and at different times. The collection includes more than 36 prints, as 10 more were added due to popular demand. I was greatly inspired by this fantastic body of work, with each print depicting not only a different view of the mountain, but also of the landscape and the lives of the people that inhabit it. Walking through the exhibit and seeing each of the prints and the small glimpses that it gave into the beauty and diversity of the area was deeply inspiring. I came home wanting to do something similar. I realized that I didn’t live near a big mountain as imposing and beautiful as Mount Fuji. I grew up in a small immigrant mill city in Massachusetts. Located in the Merrimack Valley, Lawrence Massachusetts is no Honshu Island, and nothing around me could come close to the significance of Mount Fuji has for the Japanese people. Yet, I felt that what was important was to be able to portray the complexity, diversity, and beauty of my own surroundings. So I simply looked around me, and I realized that there was one landmark, visible at various distances, that I have looked at nearly every day of my time living in this area, the Ayer Mill Clock Tower. Depicted in the distance of the night shot above, I came to see how gorgeous this city could be at night.

New England Summer Carnival-9

I even went to a carnival for the first time since high school, interested in getting the Ferris Wheel and the tower in the same shot.  I stood waiting for over an hour for the right light, and in the process realized just how festive and beautiful the tower looked in the background, as the residents of the city enjoyed a summer carnival. Riverviews of Fall_-16The city of Lawrence is also one of the poorest cities in the state of Massachusetts, with a large percentage of its resident living below the poverty line. Abandoned mills, remnants of the city’s once prosperous past in textiles are now littered with graffiti and crumbling. But what others may look at as a flaw in the landscape, is actually kind of beautiful to me. It is art, it is variety, and it makes what would actually be a pretty ugly scene, something interesting to look at. This may be the part of Lawrence that many in the state are familiar with and look upon with disaproval. But I look at it as an example of talent.
Lawrence in Autumn_-8

Pemberton Park, near the Great Stone Dam, is actually an overlooked but beautiful urban green space. It has beautiful views of the river and the Dam, and it is actually a Kayaking launch point where you can put in below the dam and kayak the Merrimack River.
Lawrence Clock Tower

The fifth and final view, is from the river itself. I waited until the water level in the river was low, and I was able to walk near the center of the river on the rocks and take a long exposure of the tower at dusk. I felt lucky to have made it at the right time, and it was one of the first long exposure photos I ever took. It opened the flood gates for my love of photography.

I hope that these five views are just the beginning of a long term project that I hope will depict more of the beauty and complexity of the city of Lawrence. I love the city I grew up in, in spite of any flaws it may have, and I firmly believe that if others could see this city through my eyes, there is a chance they may stop making blanket judgements about it and the residents within it. Lawrence is beautiful, and so are it’s people. I invite you on this journey to show that through different views of the same architectural landmark that generations residents of the city grew up looking at.

 

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Written by Karina -mylettersoftransit.com

26 Comments

kleebanks

These are great photos! And what a creative idea! Gives me ideas for my own photography scenic locations here in Maine! Thanks for sharing!

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moni

WOW!! You have an eye…Love the last picture of the river. The way the light shown in from the building.

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Anosa

These are some amazing shots you’ve taken and the river is my favourite but I do love how you’ve turned what others would take their back on and given it a new look by changing the perspective you view it in. It’s beautiful seeing it through your eyes

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Alice Carbonneau

I grew up in Lawrence and Methuen in the 50’s and 60’s. I remember the housing project on Essex St. that had beautiful climbing Ivy going up to the tops of those brick buildings. There were rose and forsythia bushes next to the fenced in clothesline areas and green lawns around each building. It was a good place to grow up. Many churches, great schools, public libraries and swimming pools, and about 5 or 6 movie theaters. The Louis Pearl store on Broadway sold the best hot buttered popcorn to the movie-goers who saw a black and white Newsreel, some cartoons, and double features. (two movies).
The Common was a wonderful place to go walking, bike riding, taking small children to the play area, or simply bench sitting while watching the parade of citizens going about their business.
I am guilty of making a few of those “blanket judgements” you mentioned above, mostly because of the changes I have seen over a long period of time, that were not necessarily improving the life of Lawrencians and the image I had of the city. I have lived in California, Maryland, Germany and now retired to New Hampshire. I have been back to visit a few times and always got that old nostalgic feeling.
Your photo shoot is truly beautiful and I thank you for reminding me of some of the greatness of the place.

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Karina -mylettersoftransit.com

Thank you so much for sharing your memories of Lawrence Alice. I love hearing about what the city used to look like, it really has changed a lot over the years, and it is continuing to evolve. Remembering what it used to be can help us have more hope about what it can be in the future. Thank you so much for stopping by!

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Elizabeth O

The pictures are stunning. I love the idea of capturing a specific point of reference at different times of the day. I would like to suggest creating a collage on Pixlr Express so you can have them altogether in one frame… i would love to see that. :)

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puritybelle

Your photos are stunning. I love how you have captured beauty even when it might seem ugly to others. I think there is something wonderful about graffiti, it has a kind of spirit and loveliness of its own. The abandoned mill is a testimonial to life I guess and how people can suffer hardship.

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Karina -mylettersoftransit.com

Thank you! I agree that there is something wonderful about graffiti, I see it as an attempt by people, whose lives are largely lived in and around these spaces the rest of us overlook, to leave their mark, to deal with their surroundings and beautify them in their own way. Before this decaying building was boarded up, people actually lived in its ruins. It is now being renovated and it is as you say a symbol of hardship, but also of renewal and how things can go full circle.

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Suchi

I used to live in Mass & be got a chance to visit this place! Will have to plan a visit! Lovely pics!

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Karina -mylettersoftransit.com

Thanks! The Lawrence Heritage State Park is a great place to stop in if you do visit the city, as is the Lawrence History Center, they have fantastic free exhibits about the history of the area. Plus Lawrence is a good place to stop if you are on your way to some other New England destinations, we are only a couple of minutes from the New Hampshire border and not a bad stop if your taking a roadtrip either up to the mountains or down to Boston.

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Kari Jonard

How cool! I love how you can look at the same thing but when you change the perspective it can be something totally different. Those pictures are all amazing!

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Karina -mylettersoftransit.com

Thank you Kari, you should definitely check out Hokusai’s 36 views of Mt. Fuji then, it was one of the most fascinating exhibits I have ever seen and if I am not mistaken it is still on tour, going to major museums throughout the world so it may be going near you soon!

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Linda Lombardo

Those pictures are very well done of our beautiful city. You can see the story of pride, craftsmanship and dedication made by the folks coming to America to make a better life.

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Karina -mylettersoftransit.com

Thank you Linda! There is definitely a lot of pride in Lawrence, and the structures were built to last, the simple fact that even after years of abandonment, many of the old mills are being renovated and preserved proves what great craftsmanship went into building them.

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Agnes

Beautiful shots! I have never been to Lawrence and you have captured it so well and given me an idea of the place.

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Leslie

Those are total gorgeous views. I think my favorite is the orange tree over looking the street. At least I think they are oranges. I love to travel but can’t go too far with my budget. Without others posting I may never get to visit.

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Karina -mylettersoftransit.com

I hear you about being limited by a budget. That is why my philosophy is to enjoy the beauty of what is around you, no matter where you are there is something interesting and beautiful we just need to change perspective and find it. I would love to see the beautiful places around you as well! Like you, the only way I will see many places will be through the screen and I think that true for frequent travelers as well, no one can see everything!

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