To those who live in the Boston area, the official-unofficial practice of saving shoveled-out parking spaces with odd objects after a severe winter storm may provoke thoughts of threatening notes, neighborhood feuds, and in some cases slashed car tires.
But a documentary short — very short — about the knick-knacks and doo-dads that people haul from their homes and plop down in coveted spots during the snowy season has a very different vibe.
Emerson College graduate Sarah Ginsburg’s four-minute video, aptly titled “Spacesavers,” offers viewers what she described as a “more peaceful and meditative” take on the practice than most people might experience.
“Typically, space savers are a point of contention between Bostonians in different neighborhoods,” said Ginsburg, 30, who now lives in Los Angeles. “But I think people are charmed by this way of looking at it.”
Ginsburg said she filmed scenes for her project, which has been shown at several film festivals in recent months, during the record-breaking 2015 winter that left the Boston area buried in mounds of snow. It’s been making the rounds online the past few weeks after she made the video public on Vimeo, just in time for Boston’s plunge into the depths of winter.
In Boston, space savers can only be used when city officials declare a snow emergency, according to the city’s website.
Once the emergency has been lifted, the objects can remain on the streets for no more than 48 hours. When the grace period is over, they’re scooped up by trash collectors and disposed of. The practice is not allowed in the South End.
As a native of Missouri, Ginsburg was fascinated while living here with the general concept — and how it was wholly embraced by Mayor Martin J. Walsh and his administration.
“I just found the act so odd, and that so many people do it that it’s completely normal,” she said. “I just loved the variety of objects people were willing to set outside and choosing to represent what they’ve done and where their car belongs.”
Ginsburg, who lived in the area until 2016, also enjoyed the overall composition of the chairs and buckets and cones silhouetted against the stark white of the snow, and how they could be framed by a lens.
“I was fascinated by the pops of color and the objects that didn’t belong on this completely white canvas,” she said. “I got in this mode of really looking at the frame and the object within an environment and creating these different compositions.”
When she set out with her camera, making stops in both Somerville, where she lived at the time, and Boston, she didn’t intend to create a film with a Zen-like quality to it. But that was what happened; an end result that seemed to sprout organically from how the subject matter was portrayed.
“[Boston is] like a patchwork quilt of colors and textures of old and new, and different types of people, and I guess that’s kind of how I looked at the city,” she said. “Documenting the space savers in this way was an extension of that.”