Arthur Griffin – The Globe Years

The Globe Years
Photographs by Arthur Griffin
November 12, 2013-January 20, 2014

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As an accomplished photojournalist, Arthur Griffin was a storyteller and captured universal experiences and emotions in his photographs.

The Globe Years, an exhibit of photographs from the Arthur Griffin archives highlights the growing career of Arthur Griffin and his time at The Boston Globe. Rotogravures and original prints will be displayed at the Aberjona River Gallery, located at 184 Swanton Street in Winchester, MA. The exhibition will be on view from November 14, 2013 – January 20, 2014.

Arthur Griffin worked at The Boston Globe from 1929-1946, when there was no more exciting place to be in the city of Boston, day or night. This was also a time of significant transition for the newspaper business, when photography and journalism merged and photojournalism was launched. Photography was playing an ever-increasing role in the production of newspapers and rotogravure was becoming more popular. The rotogravure process made for better reproduction of photographs than the photoengraving process used for the reproduction of photographs.

In 1935, with a mass circulation of more than 100,000 and the accessibly of the high speed, high definition press, the Globe was ready for its first rotogravure…and so was Griffin. Jimmie Krigman, a fastidious co-worker senior to Arthur in the art department, was put in charge and asked Arthur to join him. Griffin was to design the layouts of the roto’s pages, displaying the various photographs selected by Krigman.

Griffin decided not only to design layouts but to try his hand at photographs as well. From the relative isolation of artistic creation, of interminable draughtsmanship, Griffin was suddenly thrown into the rough-and-tumble competition of journalism. The Globe’s Rotogravure section was in competition with the best that the Hearst organization could offer. Taking the new position was risky and demanding. The pictures required photographic skill and the “big picture story,” to which Arthur aspired, demanded inventiveness, foresight and imagination.

Over a three-year period, Griffin made his mark as one of New England’s first cameramen and photojournalists. He was the first to work exclusively with the new 35 millimeter camera, a German Contax he could ill afford to buy. All the news photographers of the day used a large box camera with a bellows, called a Speed Graphic. Compared with the 35mm, it was cumbersome to hold, heavy to carry and slow, as it required a change of plate for every two pictures. News cameramen preferred the Graphic for speed and production. With a deadline hanging over him, a photographer had only to develop the one film. With the 35mm, the photographer had to develop the roll, select the negatives and then print, all requiring more time. The rotogravure, however, was published only once a week. Speed of production was not the prime consideration, quality of image was. The 35mm camera permitted Griffin to make multiple exposures quickly, preserve the best and discard the worst.

From 1935 to 1946, Griffin’s photographs, "firsts" and feature stores appeared almost weekly on the Globe’s Sunday Rotogravure covers and double spreads. He authored stores on “unknowns” such as architect Royal Barry Wills, scientist Dr. Edwin H. Land, and other New Englanders who would become forces in their own field. He documented the “first” and the “last” events, the “new” and the “old” and the “eternal.” In black and white and in color, Griffin captured the essence of Boston and New England, her people and heroes, streets and landmarks, culture and commerce, natural disasters and war years, her work and leisure, and of course her weather. During his Globe years, his antics, experiences and stories became as legendary as his photographs.

Arthur Griffin, who founded the Griffin Museum in 1992, had a more than 60-year career in photojournalism. Originally trained as an illustrator, he picked up his first camera – a second-hand Brownie – in 1929, igniting a lifetime passion for photography. Griffin, who went on to be known as New England’s photographer laureate, died in 2001 at age 97.