On left: Brattle Square Florist  On right: South End of Boston

Why I Made It: Lillian '25

by Lillian Walsh '25

I started taking photography classes at Commonwealth about a year ago, maybe because I was drawn to the idea of working for National Geographic and becoming an intrepid explorer, or maybe just because it was a popular class my friends were taking. Regardless, photography has transformed my entire perspective and how I see the world when I step outside. I notice complimentary colors, lines leading my eye to an object, natural geometric shapes, contrasts, and beautiful sunlight. I also see snapshots of the city that invoke a sense of loss of the natural world, and snapshots that make me want to celebrate Cambridge (my hometown) and all its eccentricities.

When I originally took the photo of Brattle Square Florist, seen through its large window, on my phone, I wanted to capture how the rows of buckets full of flowers were each allotted to a tile on the floor. From my angle and perspective, the rows seemed to stretch on forever. I liked the man hunched over, studying the flowers, as if he, being now inside my photograph, was observing it from his own perspective. The reflection of the sky on the window also added another dimension to the photo, blending the inside of the store and the sign with the street lights and sign posts. Later, when I edited the photo in Adobe Lightroom, as my photography teacher Mx. Korman has been teaching us to do this year, it became infinitely better: I amped up the colors, making the flowers even more vibrant, I increased the exposure to make the lightbulbs shine, and I added a blue-and-purple tint to make it feel more wintery. I then created a mask that allowed me to edit just the sky to make it a darker blue, which added a lot more color. With a different exposure and color palette, the photograph felt cozier and a bit more exciting.

I took the photo of the South End of Boston as part of a class project focused on commuting. I really like the composition and framing. There are two trees on each side of the buildings, a strip of sidewalk covered in leaves on the bottom, and part of the bus window protruding at the top and reflecting a yellow light the same color as the buildings’ windows. I also made the light a warmer, brighter yellow in Photoshop, so it seemed to spill out of the windows. I decreased the exposure of the sky so it was darker and the clouds stood out more, making the sky look stormier. I wanted the photo to appear as if it were a more fantastical version of Boston, a kind of just-discovered magical fairy realm, if you will. When I presented this photograph in class, someone said it “looked like Boston but also not Boston at the same time,” recognizable and yet foreign.

“I see snapshots of the city that invoke a sense of loss of the natural world, and snapshots that make me want to celebrate Cambridge (my hometown) and all its eccentricities.”

Editing my photos on Lightroom has been really enjoyable. There’s something about being able to make my photograph look exactly like the image in my head that is so satisfying and fulfilling. Sometimes I stay up late, going over my photos from the week, mending them and giving them touch ups, organizing and reorganizing them by a five-star rating. I’ll leave comments to myself about what to continue working on the next day, when I’m in Photography class. Taking photography classes has allowed me to explore my city and the greater Boston area much more than I thought possible, and being able to capture it on film, to me, feels like the best way to experience it.

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This article originally appeared in the winter 2024 issue of CM, Commonwealth's alumni/ae magazine.