Opening Reception Night of the Photography of Jules Aarons

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 An after-hours look at our Summer exhibition. Free to all. No registration necessary.


Jules Aarons is an important figure in documenting the West End of Boston before the ravages of Urban Renewal. His photography bears witness to the vibrant, close-knit old neighborhood—the people, their lives and their relationships. Where city planners saw the West End as a candidate for modernization, Jules Aarons saw something else: “I knew that the dynamics of people whose social relationships involved their neighbors and the streets could be a source of creativity,” he wrote. The photographs in this exhibition capture a West End far removed from today’s — streets with remarkably few cars; political posters; adults chatting outside doorways; children showing off for the camera or so deep in conversation they don’t notice it at all.

A Bronx native, Aarons (b. 1921 – d. 2008) was born and grew up in the same urban neighborhood, which might explain his affinity for Boston communities like the Old West End and the North End. He first came to the city as a Boston University graduate student and later earned his doctorate at the University of Paris. Ultimately, he returned to the Boston area, joined the B.U. faculty and became a world-renowned expert in the study of radio-wave propagation. But from his late adolescence through his academic and scientific rise, photography—especially street photography—remained a constant passion. Aarons’ photographs of the West End and North End were taken on late afternoons and weekends with a double-lens Rolleiflex camera, and he made his own prints.