“Use a little imagination and create something that will not be just a record of a beautiful place. The extra effort and thought will result in something with some of you in it. Something you and only you created.” -Arthur Griffin
By Madison Marone
Arthur Griffin’s legacy lives on through the Griffin Museum of Photography. Our mission is to encourage a broader understanding and appreciation of the visual, emotional, and social impact of photographic art. I’ve created this exhibition to align with these goals and values. My intention is to highlight and provide context for Griffin’s work so viewers may experience it in new and exciting ways.
Illuminating the Archive of Arthur Griffin: Photographs 1935-1955, views the region’s cultural heritage, traditions, and aesthetic through the lens of Griffin’s lesser-known work. The six-part exhibition explores how photography affects the way we relate to and understand the past. Each exhibit features historical, sociological, and creative interpretations of photographs from the museum’s collection. This installment focuses on landscape photography. It is separated into three sections: natural landscapes, seascapes, and cityscapes. Each section begins with a quote from Griffin to better understand his artistic perspective.
“New England offers more for artists, photographers, and lovers of beauty than any other section of its size in the world. We really have just about everything… Where is fall more colorful? Coastline more interesting? Spring more awakening? Summer more delightful and changeable? Winter pore photogenic (and cold)?” –Arthur Griffin
New England’s geography is remarkably beautiful and diverse. In the southeast, the land consists of coastal plains and beaches. Rolling hills, jagged coastlines, and mountain ranges are found in the western and northern regions. The Appalachian Mountains extend past western New England into Maine and Canada, adding texture to the wondrous landscape.
Griffin enjoyed photographing and exploring the natural world. His admiration for the land comes across in the following photographs. In the first image, a tree is backlit by the sun, creating an angelic glow. The second is a dramatic aerial photograph of Mount Washington. The third photograph depicts a rural New Hampshire town contrasted with the expansiveness of the land. In the following image, Mount Lafayette’s peaks are framed among the clouds, creating a metaphorical connection between elements of the natural world. The final photograph is a serene, snowy Vermont landscape.
“New England’s ocean shore is lined with dramatic rocks against which the waves play an obliging discordant ballet, while but a short distance away, the water washes more politely against sand dunes and gentle beaches. Just round the corner, the boats of the fishing fleet, or the yachts of the leisured, invite a still further fascinating investigation.” -Arthur Griffin
Coastal New England is framed by the Atlantic Ocean. From southwestern Connecticut to northeastern Maine, the coast varies between beaches, marshes, wetlands, and hillsides. The ocean has long been regarded as a mysterious and adventurous terrain. Griffin’s images express these sentiments. His photographs capture the energy of the sea, framing it as a character in its own geographical story. If you would like to see more of Griffin’s maritime photographs, please visit Part IV of the exhibition: New England & the Sea.
In the first photograph, waves are seen crashing over rocks as the water rushes towards the shore. The second image is a serene shot with colors progressing from the darkness of the sea to the brightness of the sky. The following photo features a Cape Cod town and the vast ocean that surrounds it. The final two photographs lay in contrast to one another. One was taken at sunrise, while the other was taken under a full moon.
“Most buildings are not very photogenic or interesting unless you can get unusual lighting, frame the picture effectively, or get personalities in the scene… You can’t get the best angles and views by always staying on the ground. I took some of the pictures from a plane. To get the grasshopper on top of the cupola of Faneuil Hall, I had to climb countless stairs and ladders, open a skylight, and trust a muscular janitor to hold my legs while I leaned out and shot skyward.” –Arthur Griffin
The metropolitan areas of New England feature an interesting mixture of historic and modern architecture. From industrial factories to bustling neighborhoods, these cities provide rich material for a curious photographer to work with. Arthur Griffin was as enthusiastic about documenting urban landscapes as he was natural landscapes. He photographed cities from unconventional perspectives, finding unique angles and lighting.
The following photos showcase Griffin’s creativity. The first image is an aerial view of Boston’s parks, skyscrapers, and bay. The second looks up at an industrial building engulfed in steam. The next photo emphasizes the bright energy of Harvard’s campus, dramatically framed with dark plants in the foreground. The fourth image features the steaming Golden Teapot, which serves as an advertisement for the bustling city. In the final photo, a mill’s bright lights illuminate the night, reflecting upon the Merrimack river.
“With the changing of the seasons, every scene presents a different picture. A person can devote a lifetime to New England and never cover half of the possibilities. I know. I have.” –Arthur Griffin
Griffin’s admiration for the outdoors and passion for photography resulted in photographs that do more than just record how a place looks. His photographs inspire emotional responses. Landscape photography has the ability to guide viewers to spaces they have never been, or long to return to. Each photograph offers an opportunity for us to travel to new places in our hearts and minds.
Special thanks to the Boston Public Library for digitizing a large portion of the Arthur Griffin Archive so it may be accessible to the public. If you would like to view more photos and library material, visit the Boston Public Library for the Digital Commonwealth and the Digital Public Library of America.
Madison Marone is an Exhibition Assistant at the Griffin Museum of Photography and a graduate student pursuing her MSc in museum studies at the University of Glasgow. She holds a BA in film studies and sociology from the University of Vermont. Her interests include early to mid-20th-century art history, film theory, and exhibit design.
Griffin, Arthur, and McCord David Thompson Watson. New England Revisited. The Author, 1966.
Kenny, Herbert A., et al. New England in Focus: the Arthur Griffin Story. A. Griffin, 1995.
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