Mary Beth Meehan’s website states that she “is a photographer who creates meaningful, in-depth portraits of her own communities. Her work addresses issues of immigration, culture, and change, and the emotional charge surrounding them. Her goal is to use her work to create connections among people, and to inspire an empathy that transcends economics, politics, and race.”
Well, that statement certainly rings true with her terrific body of work created to start a dialogue in the city of Brockton, Massachusetts. City of Champions: A Portrait of Brockton is an outdoor installation of large-scale photographs that is on display from September 2011 – September 2012. I can only imagine what an amazing experience it is to see your work celebrated and exhibited in this way.
Born in Brockton, Massachusetts, Mary Beth earned a degree in English from Amherst College and a Master of Arts in photojournalism from the University of Missouri. She now lives in Providence, R. I. and teaches Documentary Photography at the Massachusetts College of Art, and is the Artist in Residence at the International Charter School, where she leads a program teaching students in a bilingual school to document their cultures.
Mary Beth’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, she has exhibited her photographs nationally and internationally, and has lectured on the subject of community photojournalism nationwide. Her honors include awards from Pictures of the Year International and the National Conference for Community and Justice. She was nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize.
CITY OF CHAMPIONS: A Portrait of Brockton
Mrs. Carolyn Mathers, lifelong resident and the wife of one of Brockton’s most prominent retired judges, in her home on the city’s West Side.
Melissa Cruz performs with the Brockton High School Marching Band. “Brockton is portrayed as a tough, cruel city,” says a school administrator, “but the children of our city have done wonderful things.”
An undocumented immigrant, from Guinea Bissau, West Africa, in his Brockton apartment.
Nancy DeSouza poses for a portrait on Main Street.
Pedro daGraca, from Cape Verde, works at Cindy’s Kitchen, a salad dressing factory in Brockton. Jobs for unskilled non-English-speaking residents are few.
Ashleigh Bruns poses with a spring bouquet, comprised of flowers plucked from City Hall Plaza.
Turon Andrade, whose parents are from Cape Verde, takes up the boxing mantle made famous in Brockton.
Prosperity for working people was a hallmark of Brockton’s industrial past. The Martel family celebrates the Fourth of July with friends at the house where they’ve lived since the 1950s.
Suzanne McCormack was born and raised in Brockton, and now lives there with her family and her adopted son, Eli.
Some additional images….
There is a sense of loss for the old-timers, who were proud of their “shiny penny” of a city, and have watched it decline. John Meehan, whose grandparents arrived in Brockton from County Tipperary, Ireland, in the late 1800s, and went straight to work in the shoe shops, speaks fondly of growing up in a lively Irish-American enclave on the city’s east side. Now a widower, he lives alone in an apartment complex near the highway.
Francella McFarlane, of Jamaica, in Brockton. “I thought my life would be better than this, but I still thank God because I have come on a very long journey.”
Rising rates of poverty have been accompanied by rising violence and crime. Mourners stand by as the grave of 15-year-old Olivier Baptiste is filled. The boy was shot in the head by a neighbor in a disagreement over a video game.
New immigrant groups revitalize cast off remnants of the old Brockton, as the Haitian Church of God inhabits an abandoned shoe factory.