The continually changing face of cities has long been a source of inspiration – and protest – for imagemakers, who often end up documenting the harsh reality of gentrification for existing communities.
This is exactly the position Jack Lueders-Booth found himself in when he began photographing the people behind Boston Public Transportation’s Orange Line, the city’s oldest and busiest elevated train network, in the mid-1980s.
Lueders-Booth decided to pursue photography in 1970, after quitting his career in business when he turned 35. He taught photography at Harvard University until 1999, before later moving on to the Rhode Island School of Design and the Art institute of Boston, among other institutions.
It was during his time at Harvard that he began documenting the southern section of the Orange Line, which was scheduled for demolition and rerouting at the time.
Originally constructed in 1901, the railway was known for its pavement-vibrating din, lack of efficiency and general ugliness. This depressed property values in the neighbourhoods that it served and, as an unintended consequence, created affordable housing for the largely low-income population.
Unsurprisingly, news of the demolition seeded fears of rising rents and the loss of public transportation to metropolitan Boston. Change seemed imminent, and displacement likely.
Lueders-Booth photographed the area for 18 months in total, concentrating on shooting portraits of the people along the line. Using his 8×10 film camera, he was very visible while photographing, often making personal connections with the subjects that he chose.
“These photographs were made in the interest of preserving some record of the people who lived and worked along the southern stretch of Boston’s Orange Line,” says the photographer.
The resulting images, which are now the subject of his latest photo book, offer a tenderly produced archive of the community that was born from the antiquated, clattering, overhead railway.