For documentary photographer Edward Boches, the Allston neighborhood is “like a magnet.” He loves the signs and murals, which he has captured in high definition over the last year. The barber shops. The tattoo parlors. Even the houses, record stores, and skate parks.
“There is something about Allston,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s one of the most authentic communities in Boston.”
His images celebrate the beloved locale beyond Fenway, brimming with musicians, artists, chefs, and bartenders. Some of the photos highlight businesses like Roxy’s Grilled Cheese, Flint Cleaners, and Fruity tea shop. Or they reveal the scourge of gentrification with shots of orange traffic cones and construction sites. Others zoom in on people — working, walking, and living.
These stills can now be found in an exhibit and online project dubbed “Postcards from Allston.”
“I always think: What can my work do for other people?” asked Boches, who lives near the Brookline-Allston border. “In Allston, I was documenting ... a changing neighborhood that I am concerned about. People are being driven out, but the community is still alive.”
Twenty-five of his photographs can be seen in the windows of a vacant storefront at 122 Brighton Ave., where they will remain on view until at least August. There, Boches’s shots of bridges and graffiti mask all the boxes left behind by college students when campuses abruptly closed last spring.
Alex Cornacchini, executive director of Allston Village Main Streets, said the display brings life back to the address. The volunteer organization helped fund the exhibit and connect Boches with residents and city officials for the project.
“Because of the pandemic, there’s been a lot of closures,” Cornacchini said. “The vacant storefronts have been a blight on our neighborhood. This adds a dose of vibrancy.”
Postcards created from Boches’s images are also available in packs of 10 at Artful Edge, a frame shop on Harvard Avenue. And an online version of the exhibition features portraits of residents, activists, and government representatives. Beneath the portraits, Boches includes quotes from his subjects on what Allston means to them. Find it at postcardsfromallston.com.
“It’s a platform to recognize, celebrate, and amplify the voices of people who care about this place,” Boches said.
In the quotes, Allston personalities herald the creative community, music scene, and restaurants. At least a dozen touch on the neighborhood’s affordability and diversity. Many reiterate the need to prevent those who first invested in Allston from being pushed out by development and rising rents.
A quote from Jill Rosati, executive director of Arts District Boston, puts it best: “I want to keep Allston weird.”
Boches even added imaginary postcards to the online portion of his project, suggesting that “many artists, musicians, and influencers have found their true inspiration during a visit to Allston,” according to a summary. There are fake postcards from Prince, Pablo Picasso, Banksy, and Santa Claus. “Layover in Allston,” St. Nick allegedly wrote to his crew in the North Pole. “Suggest you consider putting a candy cane division in touch with these guys for a possible partnership.”
Boches, a former Boston University professor, worked with Main Streets to plan a temporary sidewalk expansion of his “Postcards” exhibit along Brighton Avenue for Saturday. He hopes to create a separate physical exhibit for the portraits in the future.
For now, he is satisfied with his work, a true representation of a neighborhood that has his heart. “This is art with a social purpose,” Boches said. “It’s not just pretty landscapes. It’s documenting something — the story of these people and this place.”