“City of Champions” is a photographic elegy to a beloved hometown, and a meditation on a changing America. The people and spaces of Brockton, Massachusetts, tell the story of once-proud cities in a post-industrial world.
Mary Beth Meehan grew up in Brockton, amid relatives and friends of Irish, Italian, Greek, Lebanese descent — the children and grandchildren of immigrants who came to work in the city’s shoe factories, in the 19th and early-20th centuries. She left in the 1980s, during the city’s decline and transformation, and heard tell of the city’s changes through voices that were angry — at the city’s decay, its loss of hope, and the waves of newcomers now arriving.
She returned with her camera in 2007, and spent the next years exploring a place that was at once familiar and foreign to her. She began to understand, first hand, the way racism and cultural dislocation can fracture a community, the similarities — and differences — between her Irish great-grandmother and today’s immigrants from Haiti, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau. And she became reconnected with a place in her family story for four generations.
Her portfolio has been published and exhibited extensively, and resulted in a large-scale public installation in Brockton’s streets.