Sheldon, former curator of photography at the Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover, Massachusetts, is a professor of media arts at Boston’s Emerson College. His work was recently on display at the Tate Modern museum in London.
The tree-lined avenue is an urban archetype, and perhaps no city street in America hews to it like Boston’s Commonwealth Avenue Mall. The nine blocks running from the famous Boston Garden to the Fens (part of the city’s Olmsted-designed “Emerald Necklace” of parks) are walled in by the street’s elegant brownstones, with a wide, grassy median separating inbound and outbound lanes. Trees in the middle and on either side meet to form a canopy through which bits of iconic Boston buildings peek, while the blocks are anchored by statues of American history’s notables ranging from Federalist Alexander Hamilton to abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison.
The mall is a corridor heavily trafficked by pedestrians and cars alike, wear that requires constant maintenance. Jim Sheldon has traveled it for decades, but until this project had never stopped to photograph it in its full expanse. For that task he turned to an elaborate 360-degree panoramic technique involving 24 separate, overlapped frames—12 across by two high—created by careful rotation of his digital SLR on a tripod. Stitched together in the computer in a process that can take Sheldon as long as two days, the results ably capture the immersive experience of walking down the Commonwealth Avenue Mall.
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