Capturing History through the Lens: Boston PhotoWalks

I set off late Saturday morning after taking my purse to a cobbler (the strap came flying off of my leather camera purse the day before, leaving me in a slightly hysterical pile on the side of the road). It was hotter and muggier than the previous days I'd spent in Boston, so I smeared on my sunscreen. Meeting at the corner of the Boston Common, I joined a walking tour along the Freedom Trail that focused on both the historical highlights of the city, as well as how to photograph them. Arriving at the Park Street Church, I found that the PhotoWalks founder, Saba, leads all of the tours herself and limits them to only a few participants. So with only four other members in my tour group, we got to know each other and shared photography tips and angles among ourselves. The Freedom Trail is 2.5 miles, but the tour didn't cover all of it, probably only about two miles.


We started in the Common, learning about how it was founded and how it was once all underwater--Boston's shoreline used to be a lot farther in than it currently is. We had a nice view of the Massachusetts State House and the church from here. Then the tour moved up Tremont Street to the Granary Burying Ground, where more than a few famous patriots were buried. However, not all of the graves align with the gravestones, which are in straight rows, because one of the groundskeepers did some rearranging following the invention of the lawnmower. This was just one of the plethora of interesting stories and facts Saba shared with us. She was super knowledgeable, both in photography and history, and answered our many questions. 


Saba also pointed out sites that weren't really on the Freedom Trail, but were interesting, such as the first integrated church in America. 


Next we visited the King's Chapel Church, which was originally a small wooden church, but it later expanded by building a larger stone exterior around it and then dismantling the original. The architecture and interior were fascinating, with pews in private boxes and the first pulpit in America. The cemetery next door had the grave of William Dawes. Dawes is nearly unknown in American history because he was out-shadowed by Paul Revere. The American revolutionaries had a failsafe system to warn those in Lexington of the arrival of the Regulars (that's right--it was not 'The British are coming!'). Both Dawes and Revere would be sent out, Dawes first on a less direct route, and then Revere a half an hour after, a different way. But in the actual moment, Revere made it to town quicker than Dawes, who was simply too late for fame. 


The tour took us past the Old City Hall and where the statue of Benjamin Franklin was supposed to be--he recently was blown off his pedestal by a gust of wind and a big tent! 

Where Ben Franklin is supposed to stand, before that gust of wind came...

Where Ben Franklin is supposed to stand, before that gust of wind came...


Near the end of the tour, we saw the meeting place of the Boston Tea Party. This was where Samuel Adams gave a secret signal for the Sons of Liberty to don disguises of the Mohawk Native American tribe and march down to the harbor and dump 342 chests of tea overboard. After that, we saw the site of the Boston Massacre (the victims of which had been buried in the Granary Burying Ground) which is in front of the old State House, now partially a metro stop. In my photos you’ll see there is a unicorn and a lion on the roof of the State House, but in actuality the originals were torn down and burnt in the revolution, because they were symbols of the British crown. The last stop on the tour was Faneuil Hall, which was erected as both a market and a meeting place for the revolutionaries. 

Meeting place of the Sons of Liberty before the Boston Tea Party

Meeting place of the Sons of Liberty before the Boston Tea Party

Above is the former State House and the square in front of it is the site of the Boston Massacre.

Above is the former State House and the square in front of it is the site of the Boston Massacre.

Faneuil Hall

Faneuil Hall

Although I probably would have chosen to reapply sunscreen, I wouldn’t change anything about this tour. I really enjoyed talking with the kind and very knowledgeable Saba, as well as the friendly and small tour group. The sites we visited on the PhotoWalks Freedom Trail tour were all vital to the revolution and it’s memories. Saba also runs other tours, all over Boston, such as in Beacon Hill, Back Bay, and the North End, if you want to discover more of Boston or do a more architectural tour. The length of the tour, about an hour and a half, was just right to maximize interest and information, without the tour group getting tired. We saw many important historic sites and took some really beautiful photos, which is a simple equation that equals a victorious travel day, in my opinion. I enjoyed this tour greatly and would recommend a PhotoWalks tour of Boston to anyone who is visiting the area, or even a local who wants to learn more about photography, history, and architecture. 

The average price for a group tour is $40 for adults and $20 for children ages 10-17, and I can confidently say that it is totally worth the price. Further, she sends out a helpful photography guide after the tour, so you can remember all of her advice. 

Saba also does many fun events like scavenger hunts, photography workshops, and private tours, so check out her website here


Disclaimer: This post was written in partnership with PhotoWalks Boston. As always, the opinions expressed here are completely my own.