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.
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. The 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.
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.
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.