Living on Earth
The Story Behind My
This image emerged from my 1973 assignment for Documerica, a project funded by the EPA and currently featured by the National Archives.
Here is an overview and sampling of the project:
Some recognition of the project
What's left of Neptune Road today
My Essay on Landing at Logan
East Boston was once bucolic, a place where people would find relief from a stifling summer in Boston. Wood Island Park was one of its magnets, located off Neptune Road, with trees and grass and ocean breezes. It was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and treasured as one of his green spaces.
According to the current City of Boston web site:
That is the enlightened view of today. In 1904 progress was represented by a subway tunnel connecting East Boston to the rest of the city. An airfield built in the early 1920s expanded into what is today Logan International Airport. It became the 20th busiest airport in the US, even while lacking the land mass of other major airports. Logan is almost completely surrounded by water, which limits its growth. Rather than utilize it as a feeder airport, officials expanded it into East Boston, wiping out Wood Island Park and impacting the community with aircraft flights low overhead on takeoff or landing that at times resembled bombing raids. Construction sent noisy trucks through the streets. Taxis and busses and shuttle vans serviced the airport and added to the din.
In 1948 Boston's first expressway was conceived, to connect the airport with downtown Boston. This highway cut though East Boston, dividing the community by cutting off the Neptune Road neighborhood and creating an elevated eyesore. When the subway expanded above ground, it cut off one end of Neptune Road. a further insult to neighborhood integrity.
Eventually this encroaching civilization destroyed a close-knit, well-cared for neighborhood community. When I photographed residents trying to hang on, in the early 1970s, it was already too late. The powers to be had made decisions that literally kept hammering away. As an example, there was the morning that residents of Neptune Road awakened to more construction noise, This time the other end of their street, now pointing directly at a runway, was fenced off. Logan Airport expanded right into the neighborhood. Power dominated pleasant life.
On revisiting Neptune Road in 2010 I found small evidence of the life that had once flourished here: a street sign, some lampposts, a fire hydrant, trees, and not much more. It was a poignant scene.
And yet those photographs from 1973 might have some purpose today. They appeared too late to save Neptune Road. But they still carry a message. The philosopher George Santayana once observed that "those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
Perhaps, in these more awakened times, any civic group threatened by an overreaching metropolis would think to access the Documerica files of my images. These photographs might bolster a case of how tragic it would be if their own local treasures were abolished. Perhaps the power of a photograph might serve to dramatize the worthiness of a positive quality of life.