The Christmas Project

December 03, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Part fine art, part photojournalism - and 100% festive. Though The Christmas Project didn't begin as an assignment, it quickly took on a life of its own and earned a slot on my annual shooting calendar. This marks its tenth year.

Back in 2010, I decided to head into Boston over Thanksgiving weekend to photograph the giant Faneuil Hall Christmas tree. Why? I'm not sure. To say I'm not a fan of the day-after-Thanksgiving shopping orgy would be a glaring understatement. No matter how much I enjoy Christmas lights and decorations, the idea of wading through that late-November frenzy to see them is pretty much a non-starter. By then, I'd lived in New England for 15 years and had never once felt the slightest urge to brave the crowds in order to admire the Faneuil Hall Marketplace decorations over Thanksgiving. And until then I hadn't typically photographed that type of subject matter.

Yet somehow there I was with my camera. (Not just once, but twice over that long weekend.) Within ten days I'd worked five locations. Off to the races!

Had I lived in another part of the country, I doubt the chain of events would have played out in the same way. It's hard to beat New England when it comes to quaint - and plentiful - holiday scenes. Bandstands and gazebos are everywhere; even many of the smallest are decorated. Town squares are reminiscent of scenes from vintage Currier and Ives lithographs: red brick buildings, cobblestones, white church steeples, old fashioned streetlamps, wreaths hung on windows, candles aglow. With a nod to the region's nautical heritage, there are Christmas trees decorated with miniature buoys. Others are built from lobster traps. Lighthouses are adorned with wreaths - and some wear twinkling holiday lights.

Conversely, for some really-really-big-city-Christmas-glitz I could hop in the car and head for Midtown Manhattan. 

Since moving to Idaho, the project has gotten a little more complicated and now generally involves air travel.

I typically start mulling over potential locations for the next year as soon as the current season's images are processed. Washington, D.C. and Edinburgh, Scotland (the latter being one of my favorite cities on the planet) were on the short list for 2020. Until 2020 unraveled. 

So for the first time in a long time I've had to call an audible. Having ceded the skies to Rudolph and Santa this season, I'm left with whatever is reachable by car. It's the wild, wild west or bust! Quite the conundrum. 

The intermountain west is spread out, sparsely populated, and many municipalities are a wee bit lacking when it comes to decking the halls. ("Wee bit lacking" is a wee bit charitable. I've poked around enough business districts over the past few years to know.) String some lights, people!

Bottom line: it's not easy to find new subject matter. 

I've narrowed the possibilities down to five locations scattered across four states - though Mother Nature will have the final say. One thinks twice about driving for many hours in a winter storm to photograph holiday cheer. I'm not sure how this is going to play out but the calendar says I need to get a move on.

Meanwhile, I'll leave you with a throwback to the very beginning: the infamous Faneuil Hall tree that called my name and got this whole thing rolling. The tallest Christmas tree in New England, that year it was even taller than the one at Rockefeller Plaza in New York. Behind it stands my favorite structure in Boston, the Custom House Tower. 

This year at Faneuil Hall it's Bah Humbug and a lump of coal for your stocking: there is no tree. Scrooge lives.

Not to worry; he's not going to ruin this party. Feeling like some Santa Claus, ho ho ho and mistletoe? Follow the link below!

The Christmas Project

Star of WonderStar of WonderThe massive Faneuil Hall Christmas tree reaches high into the sky, lighting up the night along with the Custom House Tower. (Boston, Massachusetts)

 


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