Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Adams and the MFA

One of the unusual things about the Boston area is that occasionally, in the  middle of an urban commercial area, you find a little graveyard tucked between the high-rises.  This is the Hancock Cemetery, named after the famous signatory's father who was the minister at the First United Parish Church across the street. None of the famous founding fathers are buried here, but most of their ancestors are. This is a fairly severe crop of the negative in order to get a level horizon.  I was holding the camera on a tabletop tripod against a stone pillar.  I thought the light was nice though.

Hancock Cemetery

Presidents John Adam and John Quincy Adams are buried in a crypt in the basement of the church, carved out of the rock beneath the building.  You don't have to go down very far to hit bedrock in eastern Massachusetts. There's not much in there except the sarcophagi of the two presidents and their wives Abigail and Louisa Catherine. We were encouraged by the guide to take photographs. There was no place else to set the tripod down so it's actually sitting right on John Adams grave.

Crypt beneath First United Parish Church

John Adams was a member of the parish (as well as most of his ancestors back to 1639), but he was dead before this particular church was built.  When John Quincy attended here it was typical to buy your own pew.  Here I am sitting in the presidential pew. Don't I look saintly.  Actually it was really windy, and I'm backlit – the halo is just the frizzy hair that's come out of my ponytail.


Sitting in John Quincy Adams pew

The birthplace of John Adams, occupied by his family for several generations, is on a not too big corner lot on a side street in Quincy, although it was the main road from Braintree to Boston in the 18th century. When he married Abigail his father bought them the house next door, right behind me, which became the birthplace of John Quincy Adams, and was where Abigail spent the Revolutionary War while John and the teenaged John Quincy were off in Europe representing the brand new U.S.

John Adams birthplace

After being the first ambassador to Great Britain, when John and Abigail returned they bought this much bigger house a mile north and called it Peacefield. He lived there until he died and John Quincy after him. The house has stayed in the family until it became a museum in 1927 (The birthplaces as well- they rented those).  It's located on a site that seems more befitting a national monument.

John Adams home at Peacefield

The tour guides are costumed in 18th century garb and spend the time knitting and chatting with guests between tours.  The one on the right had built and used a pinhole camera in junior high school. By the way, John Quincy Adams was the first president to be photographed, in 1843, 14 years after he left office.

Costumed guides at John Adams house

The next day, we went to the MFA to see the big 17th century Dutch painting exhibition.  Pretty cool getting to inspect two Vermeers from inches away, as well as several Rembrandts and Van Dykes. My great ambition is to take pinhole portraits in that style, but I never get the guts to ask people to sit for me. So instead here's a candid of Kristin and Sarah selecting lunch in the posh cafe in the Museum courtyard.


Kristn and Sarah at lunch at the MFA

In the past, it's been no photography allowed in the MFA galleries, and I've been caught trying. but that's apparently changed as we saw a number people using iPhones and the occasional SLR right in front of the guards. Still no tripods though, precious few places to set a table top tripod, and it would be rude to make everyone stop for five minute exposures and wait for me in any event, so I had to make do with this skylit galleria.

long galleria in hte MFA

One place where sitting still for a while is part of the experience is in the video installation gallery, where there is this door leading out into a hallway. Sarah's blond hair is always good for a highlight in a dark space.



All with the Populist. .15mm pinhole 24mm from 24x36mm frame.





3 comments:

  1. Very nice. John Adams would have never known that his grave could have functioned as a tripod! Was he a Populist, also?

    ~Joe

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  2. Not exactly. It's probably because of him that we all have bi-cameral legislatures. He probably would have approved of the simplicity and hands on nature of pinhole photography.

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  3. Another nice travelogue, Nick. I am going to have to set up a blog or something. Take care.

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