A Glimpse of EglestonA Photo Essay by Lucy Park

This is a sign that sits on the major intersection at the end of one side of Egleston Square. The bright cobalt sign sits in the middle of a very small green space that is littered in concrete structures, probably some sort of abstract public art piece. The sign is so shiny looking, and brand new, it seems out of place in this intersection and around the businesses that have seemingly been here for decades. It welcomes you to Egleston Square, in the most striking way it possibly could.

I was walking down Washington Street, the main street in Egleston on which most of the businesses sit, with my camera in hand and my eyes looking. I turned down one of the side streets that seemed to only be filled with parking lots and apartment buildings. Then something seemed to jump out of the sea of brick buildings, a turquoise colored garage or storage building. None of the lights were on in the building, and it looked to be abandoned. But the paint on the outside was still a vibrant color of blue, and it struck out against the backdrop of the brick apartments and the rusted gates. I took this picture of one of the walls of the building, with it’s rusted gate and dilapidated signs in front, to show the contrast of the colors.

I found myself searching for street art when I was taking pictures in Egleston. There are beautiful murals with bright colors that line a few of the brick buildings. However, I found myself looking more and more at the graffiti; the multi-colored tags people would spray on the sides of buildings. This building in particular struck me because of its color. The front of the building was worn and the color was not as bright, due to being in the sun for who knows how long. The front door was covered in a variety of brightly colored graffiti signatures, as if every artist felt the need to sign their name. I thought that the building was a striking picture not only because of the bright color but also because of the obvious wear on the building from having existed in Egleston for so long.

When I was walking around Egleston Square I found myself also drawn to the cars. It seemed as if everyone in the community owned a car and parked it out on the street. Every parking space was filled, and everywhere you went you couldn’t avoid looking at them. Every car was different, the colors would range from bright red, to dull navy and an occasional shiny new black car. I took a lot of pictures of cars, but none of them seemed as interesting as this one. I was walking along Washington street when I came across a gated parking lot. The only thing parked in the lot was this car, which seemed like it used to be a beautiful red car, but now has had enough parts replaced that it almost resembles a patchwork quilt.

So many of the homes in Egleston are triple-deckers. Three porches, one or two doorways, not a lot of yard. At first glance, they might all seem the same. But one thing that I noticed while taking pictures of Egleston was that every house was different. The colors were different, ranging from eggshell colored to red and dark brown. The cars in front of the houses told a very specific story about the people who lived inside. From minivans that were made to carry a team of tiny soccer players to BMWs that were owned by the wealthy of Jamaica Plain.

I took this picture because there are few buildings in Egleston that feature bright colors like these bright red doors. Most of the businesses are in brick buildings, and while some of their signs used to be bright yellow or blue the sun and fumes from city life has seemed to dull the color. These bright doors were a cheery contrast against the brick, they immediately drew my attention in as I walked by.

This is Kevin, he works at the video store in Egleston square. Kevin stands at the front of his store among the stacks of dvds and carefully balanced machines in the back of the store. The register sits to his right along with the small selection of candy, while the syrups in pump bottles used to make sugary coffee concoctions sit to his left. He smiles goofily at me when I ask to take his photo, and when I ask him about gentrification in Egleston he warns me that he has too much to say. He is frustrated that the people in Egleston who seem to be the loudest about gentrification are often the ones who cause it. He explains that gentrification is something that has been hitting Jamaica Plain, specifically Egleston Square, for such a long time and that it has in fact majorly and in a way negatively affected the neighborhood. He mentions a few time that he was worried about the neighborhood turning into something different, and for the worse. He clearly loved his neighborhood, as it is his home, just like every other person from Egleston I talked too.

The selection of movies at this store is endless. They were renovating the store, and Kevin mentioned several times that the store doesn’t usually look like this either since they were closing in only 15 minutes. There were boxes of movies and other things on the floor by the windows along with cardboard cutouts of a few actors, including Yoda. There are black bookshelves filled with movies, classics like Pulp Fiction sit along new additions like Moana. Some of the videos in the front are organized by director, hinted at by the yellow tags that dangle from the bookshelves. If the video shelf section isn’t enough there is a candy and drink bar by the register in the front of the store. Several customers came in and out of the store, and Kevin greeted them as if they were longtime friends instead of browsing customers.

This is Bienvenido on the right, and his friend on the left. When I asked him if I could take his picture for my project his eyes seemed to light up with happiness as he went over to a group of four other men and pulled his friend to take a photo with him. They both laughed when I pointed my camera at them, and we had to take more than one picture to get this one. I asked Bienvenido about Jamaica Plain, and he said that this was his home. When I asked him where he lived he walked out of the garage just enough to point to one of the houses across the street, he explained that he had lived here for 23 years and had worked in this garage, owned by a close friend, for around the same time. He emphasized how much he liked the community of Egleston Square, and how it felt close to home with all the Dominican people and businesses in the neighborhood.

There were three cars being fixed in the garage the day I went in to take photos. It was raining, not the kind of downpour that hits the ground hard and is satisfying to hear and to watch but the kind of rain that seems to spit at you until you’re soaked. All the men working at the garage were standing inside having a morning coffee together while listening to low music on the radio in the corner of the large space. It was obviously warmer inside and out, and the garage was lit up by a few ceiling lights that we on around the room. On the left side of the garage there is a sort of kitchen set up. There is a small counter with a few cabinets along with an industrial sink and a short white fridge. A few chairs are over there next to the tall pile of tires. On the right side of the garage there is a rug with a spinning chair, along with another white fridge and a few industrial cabinets. A red car was pulled all the way up to the rug and all the doors were opened as if the car itself was welcoming you into it. The way the jacket was thrown over the chair seemed as if someone had just stood up and walked away.

This is a photo of the produce storage in on the the Dominican corner stores in Egleston. The store was filled with chips and soda, but there was also a variety of fruit and vegetables, many types you would not be able to find this time of year at your local Star Market. There are boxes of ripe yellow plantains, you could practically taste their sweet flavor just looking at them, stationed across from the storage room. There are guavas next to those, and a few other types of root vegetables behind those. It seems like a strange mix to have those tropical fruits living next to the bright packages of Starburst and Doritos. I took the picture of the storage room rather than the fruits themselves because I thought there was an eeriness around the clear curtain that created a line customers could not cross. Through the curtain I could see some more boxes of fruit, but the image was distorted from the waves in the material. It was like looking through a bubble, and into a world I wasn’t allowed to go into.

This was Pedro’s store. When I walked into Pedro’s store I was struck by the selection of fruits and vegetables among the Sazón packages and the neon bottles of Orange Fanta. Boxes of Mangos balances on top of the ice cream freezer at the register. The orange and green skins are contrasting against the bright blue of the ice box. When I took the photo I couldn’t decide what to focus on, the mangos, the ice cream, or the bread. The overcrowdedness of the counter seemed more important than any of the individual objects.