“I know New England like the feel of my camera. I have been over her highways and up the back of dirt roads, cow paths and country lanes, and have walked the shores of many harbors, inlets and creeks… My ambition, simply stated, has been to bring happiness through my pictures, to feel that the world was a bit better off for my having done what I did.” -Arthur Griffin
By Madison Marone
Arthur Griffin is remembered as a successful photographer for the Boston Globe and a New England photojournalist for Life and Time magazines. Griffin was a pioneer in the use of color film, providing the first color photos to appear in the Saturday Evening Post. His work captures the essence and vibrancy of mid-20th century New England.
Griffin’s legacy lives on through the Griffin Museum of Photography. As an Exhibitions Assistant at the museum, I’ve created this series to highlight and provide context for his work so viewers may experience it in new and exciting ways. Illuminating the Archive of Arthur Griffin: Photographs 1935-1955, looks at New England’s cultural heritage, traditions, and aesthetic through the lens of Griffin’s lesser-known work. This six-part exhibition explores how photography enhances our relationship with and understanding of the past. Each exhibit features historical, sociological, and creative interpretations of photographs from the museum’s collection.
Griffin famously documented the region in all of its seasons. This installment focuses on his summer photographs. It is separated into three sections based on their location: the city, the countryside, and on the shoreline.
For more information on Arthur Griffin’s work as a photojournalist, see the second installment: The Art of Photojournalism.
In the City
In the summertime, Boston is in full bloom. Tourists and residents of the city can be found walking about the streets, visiting the parks, and spending time by the water. People of all ages get outdoors to explore and socialize. Griffin took this opportunity to photograph summer leisure activities. He worked in the Public Gardens and Boston Commons, as well as along the Charles River and Boston Harbor. His images capture the joy and excitement of people as they celebrated the summer season.
The following images highlight some of the activities available in Boston. In the first photograph, two small boys are seen playing along the harbor with the city line as a backdrop. The next image is of a woman painting lilacs and enjoying the greenery of Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum. The third image features a group of people sightseeing on a horse-drawn carriage tour. In the following image, crowds of all ages prepare for a concert at the Hatch Shell. The final two photographs depict children and adults taking a break from the urban landscapes and enjoying the public parks.
For more photos and information on Boston, see the third installment: Boston Arts and Entertainment.
In the Countryside
In rural areas, summer is seen as an opportunity to explore the great outdoors. Activities include fishing, hiking, and playing sports. The beauty of the New England countryside provided rich material for Griffin to photograph. He captured the dramatic scenery as well as the interesting people he met in his travels.
The following photographs capture the bright and quaint energy of summers in the country. In the first photograph, a group of children parades through a field waving American flags. The next two photos feature young boys fishing and baiting their hooks in classic Americana style. The fourth image is of an adult and child holding hands as they stroll through a covered bridge path. The next image features two boys play boxing in an open field. The final image is a group of teens biking through the countryside on a dirt road.
For more photos and information on the region’s landscape, see the fifth installment: Landscape Photography.
On the Shoreline
The New England shoreline is a beautiful and vibrant place in the summertime. People can be seen fishing, lounging on the beach, and playing in the ocean. Griffin photographed tourists and locals as they enjoyed the summer sun along the coast. There is a sense of radiance and ease in his photographs.
The following images feature a variety of coastal activities. In the first photo, a family searches for clams in the shallow water. The second image is a scene filled with beachgoers under patterned umbrellas. The next photograph is a silhouetted pair of people walking along the sandbar at low tide. The fourth features a young boy examining a fish caught by a smiling elder. In the fifth image, horses gallop dramatically through the water with waterskiers in tow. The final photograph depicts a woman showing a group of children how to feed geese from the dock.
For more maritime photos and information, see the fourth installment: New England & the Sea.
Celebrating summer is an important part of New England’s culture. After a long and cold winter, it is liberating to trade in coats for teeshirts and enjoy the outdoors. Griffin’s summertime photos help remind us that many of these seasonal amusements are timeless. Although the modern world looks different, it is interesting to acknowledge which activities and traditions remain. Perhaps as you go about your summer, you will remember these photographs and smile. This was Griffin’s hope all along.
For more information on New England traditions, see the installment first installment: Winter Traditions.
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.
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