I have had a nine year love affair with Peddocks Island in Boston Harbor. Since making the first series of pictures of the island in 2005 (Peddocks 1) I have been back most years and have now made two more series: Peddocks Island 2011 (Peddocks 2011) and Peddocks Isand 2012 (Peddocks 2012) .
Peddocks Island, Boston Harbor, MA
Why such a strong connection to the island ? I thought you'd never ask. I am going to answer that over the next four posts but first a short island history.
Peddocks Island is the largest of a chain of islands in Boston Harbor.
This from Wikepedia:
Principally used for farming since the early 17th century, Peddocks Island has also served military purposes. During the American Revolutionary War, over 600 militiamen were stationed on the island. In 1904, Fort Andrews was built on the island, and it served as an active harbor defense fort until the end of World War II. As of 2008, 26 of the original buildings of Fort Andrews were still standing, although most of them were in decrepit shape and were closed to the public for safety reasons.
In 2008, Peddocks Island was used for filming scenes in Martin Scorcese's Shutter Island, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
When I first photographed there in 2005 most of the buildings were sill standing, although they were run down, vandalized and partly boarded up.
As the original Peddocks Island pictures have been shown and published frequently, I have written about the work several times and in different ways. One was to write a fact based fiction story about how an unnamed photographer made the pictures and what was going on in his head when working on the project.
He decided he would go back to Peddocks Island to photograph.
He'd been there once with a friend while kayaking and
had thought then that it would be good to return with a camera.
This time he went prepared, knowing that on this gray
day threatening rain it would be dark in the woods where the
old buildings were. He drove out of Boston down to the south
shore where there was a high school and windmill at the
point. There he loaded his kayak with his camera and a tripod
and paddled across the channel with little boat traffic on this
early summer day in the middle of the week. When he
reached the island, he pulled his boat up and changed back to
his sneakers, loaded his camera and set off to photograph.
The light was perfect, smooth and even and flat. He worked
for the next few hours, concerned that he might get caught
with his expensive camera in the rain. But the rain held off
and he was alone on this island that was filled with ruins from
another time, the early 1900's. He was struck by how different
it was to photograph here in comparison to where he'd been
shooting earlier in the year after a snowstorm at the new
Frank Gehry building at MIT in Cambridge called the STATA Center.
All color and reflective metal with curved forms and whimsical spaces.
The STATA Center at MIT, Cambridge, MA
These buildings he photographed now, with their broken down
porches and their busted out windows, were brick and wood,
right angled, Victorian and upright, not a curve in them.
Having been brought up in New England, he felt he knew
these forms. Being at Peddocks that day wasn't so much
scary as it was solitary, perhaps the way he liked to work best,
comfortable inside the intensity and single mindedness of
photographing to really capture the place over several rolls of
film. He finished and went back to the landing where his
kayak was, and found he was reluctant to leave.
This feeling of being the only one on the whole island was
oddly powerful. He ate his sandwich at a picnic table overlooking
the harbor and then shot two more rolls in color film
instead of black and white, in brighter light, of a different subject
and in a different frame of mind. Then he packed up his
boat, and while paddling back across the channel to his car
and the mainland, it started to rain. He was often very lucky
The STATA Center and Peddocks Island pictures were shown as large grids at a Northeastern University Faculty Show in 2008 with the quoted piece above hung between them on the wall.
In Peddocks #2 I will write about what has happened to the island since I made the first series and will show some of the new pictures. Stay tuned.