EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 18, 2012

A century of photographs from Fenway Park

Pioneering Lawrence photographer linked to ballpark

By Rosemary Ford
rford@eagletribune.com

It's hallowed ground to anyone in the Boston area, indeed almost anyone who's heard of baseball.

This year Fenway Park celebrates its centennial as a home to some of baseball's greatest players, historic wins and crushing losses.

Some of that sacred magic is captured at two exhibits at the 20-year-old Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester.

The museum is named for famed Lawrence photographer Arthur Griffin, who died in 2001 at the age of 97.

The first is "Fenway Park: A 100th Anniversary Exhibit," featuring about 100 works from Lora Brody, Bill Chapman, Jim Dow, Roger Farrington, John W. Ferguson, David Levinthal, Lou Jones, Jack Kadis, Steve Morse, Tony Scarpetta, Stephen Sheffield, Mike Sleeper, Steve Wilstein, and Laura Wulf.

Griffin's nephew Peter Griffin of Windham has a few favorites in this show, namely some shots of Fenway on 9-11 ("There isn't a person in sight. There is something very haunting about it.) and also a set of photos from the area before the construction of the park.

"It was really a wasteland," Griffin said. "There was nothing there."

Griffin, who has already seen the show, thinks the photos and artifacts on display will give viewers a good idea about why and how Fenway Park became so important to so many.

SDLqThere are so few constants in our life," said Peter Griffin, who likened Fenway to something warm and fuzzy. "There is so much change going on in our lives — it's something we can sort of grasp."

The show includes historical and contemporary photographs, as well as ephemera related to the building, the neighborhood, and the people.

"It's been a great venue for the Boston Red Sox, but it has also been the great New England clubhouse over the years," Griffin said. "FDR gave his final political stump speech there in 1944. In 1918, there was a rally there for Irish independence that attracted 60,000 people — inside and on the streets around Fenway."

The second show, "There Goes Ted Williams," features the work of Arthur Griffin alongside contemporary illustrations by Matt Tavares.

Griffin's photos are the first color shots ever taken of Williams and also one of the largest collections of images from Williams' early career.

While Williams would go on to greatness, so would Griffin. He pioneered the use of 35mm cameras and color film, shot the first color photos of baseball player Ted Williams and fighter Joe Louis, and his pictures were the first to run in color in The Boston Globe, The Saturday Evening Post, and Yankee Magazine.

After graduating from Lawrence High in 1921, Griffin studied graphic design and illustration at the New School of Design in Boston. He didn't buy his first camera, a second-hand, folding Eastman Kodak Brownie, until he was 26. He sold his first photograph to American Home Magazine in 1934.

By 1936, Griffin became the first newspaper photographer to use the 35mm German Contax camera exclusively, while most newspaper photographers used a box camera called the Speed Graphic.

In a 1998 interview, Griffin told The Eagle-Tribune:

"All of the other guys had a big box camera. I had a very small, fast camera." It allowed him to be nimble and get the shots the others missed.

With his camera, Griffin could shoot 36 pictures a roll, where his contemporaries had to reload after taking two pictures. Griffin captured pictures more quickly without the impediment of reloading.

In 1939, Kodak sent him the experimental color film. He used it to shoot the first color photos of baseball legend Ted Williams as a Red Sox rookie at Fenway. Williams was 19.

No one else shot a color photo of him until the '50s.

"(The film) was brand new," Griffin remembered in 1998. "It did show the whole scene, but it was awfully slow and I had to use a tripod."

Over his long career, Griffin shot celebrities, sports heroes, American icons and wonders of the world, like the Taj Mahal. Still, his favorite subjects were the ones closest to home.

"I have been all over the world. I think New England is the best part of America to live. It's got everything," he said in 1998.

When Griffin opened the museum in 1992, it was mainly to store the archives of his work.

In the last 20 years, according to Peter Griffin, the museum has expended its space and offerings, and developed an international reputation as a home for contemporary photography.

 

"Fenway Park: A 100th Anniversary Exhibit," is at the Main Gallery through June 3.

"There Goes Ted Williams" is at the Atelier and Griffin Galleries through May 27.

The Griffin Museum is located at 67 Shore Road, Winchester.

Visit GriffinMuseum.org for more information.

 

Arthur Griffin

Born: 1903 in Lawrence

Graduated: Lawrence High, 1921

Earliest job: Delivering the Tribune at age 10.

First camera: Bought, second-hand, a folding Eastman Kodak Brownie in 1929.

Favorite picture: Has several, but two that come to mind are ones with wife Polly and daughter Lee.

Publications his pictures were in: The Boston Globe, Life, Look, Time, Fortune and Colliers.

Famous people photographed: Norman Rockwell, Elizabeth Taylor, Gregory Peck, Frank Sinatra, Bette Davis, Presidents Herbert Hoover and Dwight Eisenhower, Winston Churchill, Orson Wells and Ethel Barrymore.

First color photograph in The Boston Globe: Charles "Chuckling Charlie" O'Rourke, a quarterback for the Boston College team that beat Tulane University in the Sugar Bowl.

Became independent photographer: 1946. Assignments for Eastman Kodak took him to Europe, South America and Africa.

His biggest moneymaking photo: A 1970 photo of the Taj Mahal. "Now that is a great example of work that has kept me in bread and highballs," he said in 1998.

Number of shots he has blown: 0

On modern technology in photography (1998): "I think they are out of this world. Anybody can buy an inexpensive small camera and get good, professional pictures."