Photographers Capture New Joys in Their Hometowns

Boston, Lisbon and Seoul get personal reexaminations
In front of a photo mural in Graffiti Alley in Cambridge, Mass. (Photo by Iaritza Menjivar)

What happens when you’re set loose to travel in your own city? To walk miles and miles of new neighborhoods, to rediscover places you forgot existed? These photographers were asked to reflect on — and capture — why they love their city. In the process, they were sometimes stunned by how much change they encountered, and they reveled again in the culture that gives their city its identity.


By Iaritza Menjivar

A visitor under the arches leading to the garden at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

Although I am a Boston native, my experience with my city is different than many. My parents are immigrants from El Salvador and Guatemala and spent most of their time working two to three jobs to make ends meet. As I was growing up, there wasn’t a lot of time for exploring where we lived, but pursuing photography as my career provided me the opportunity to learn about my city.

For this assignment, from the short walks through brick alleyways and strolls through historic parks to the T rides between restaurants and theaters, throughout the city I felt connected to people. I struck up conversations with Red Sox fans and art enthusiasts. I learned the reasons some people, like me, choose to stay here and why others ended up gravitating here. Above all, the experience of rediscovering my city made me feel lucky to call Boston home.

Iaritza Menjivar is a photographer in Somerville, Mass., and works for the Somerville Arts Council.

A passageway in the SoWa area of Boston.
Customers at Cheapo Records in Cambridge.
Live music at Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen in Boston.
TOP: A passageway in the SoWa area of Boston. BOTTOM LEFT: Customers at Cheapo Records in Cambridge. BOTTOM RIGHT: Live music at Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen in Boston.


By Tiago Maya

Visitors take in the fresh air at Gulbenkian Park in Lisbon.

In Lisbon, change is the new constant for my nearly three-millennia-old capital. Development goes on across our many cobblestone streets, as neighborhoods are awash in foreign investment, yet we still take pride in the spirit of this city. On the same avenues where I once walked as a young man, the old stone-faced buildings have received a much-needed lift. And where whole facades change, the same Portuguese energy flows. Newly tattooed exteriors and Instagram-worthy interiors feed off that energy and the prevailing designs that we have created.

The Portuguese people have embraced the recent tourism buzz that has come as a result. We’ve adapted to the modernization while remembering our cultural roots. Fado is still sung in the Chiado. The smell of sardines still permeates in the Baixa. And though our language seems to get drowned out as crowds travel from all over to see our city, we still breathe in that same beautiful smell of Lisbon as our ancestors have from the beginning.

Tiago Maya is a Lisbon-based graphic designer and photographer who has worked with clients around the globe.

Alvalade North Market in Lisbon.
Chef Isabel Jacinto treasures a photo from her childhood.
Casa Da India, a local brewery and grill.
TOP: Alvalade North Market in Lisbon. BOTTOM LEFT: Chef Isabel Jacinto treasures a photo from her childhood. BOTTOM RIGHT: Casa Da India, a local brewery and grill.


By Jean Chung

A pedestrian passes the Makercity Sewoon building in Seoul.

I was born and raised in Seoul, and the city never ceases to surprise me. The constant cycles of demolition and rebuilding are not always a welcomed experience, since I cherish the past more than the gentrification; but I have been pleasantly surprised to find out that a few neighborhoods have managed to incorporate the new with the old. Makercity Sewoon is a perfect example of this delicate balance.

In the ’70s, the gigantic concrete building that loomed over smaller establishments was called Sewoon Sangga (an arcade of businesses). It was an infamous source of illegal comic books when importing Japanese culture was banned, in addition to housing records that the government had censored. To culture-hungry Koreans, Sewoon was heaven.

When I went to the “new” Makercity Sewoon last year, it was no longer the dark, run-down building I remembered. The small electronics shops were still there, but windows were added to see the Cheonggyecheon stream, and there were trendy cafes and a larger-than-life robot at its gateway. Seoul has managed not to lose its core values. And yet, its facade is always changing.

Jean Chung is a contributing photographer for The Washington Post based in Seoul.

Visitors take a snapshot inside a photo booth in Seoul’s Itaewon district, known for its bars and restaurants.
A crowd in the city’s bustling Nogari Alley.
The Makercity Sewoon building.
TOP: Visitors take a snapshot inside a photo booth in Seoul’s Itaewon district, known for its bars and restaurants. BOTTOM LEFT: A crowd in the city’s bustling Nogari Alley. BOTTOM RIGHT: The Makercity Sewoon building.

Editors’ note: Vacations take advance planning. So do The Washington Post Magazine’s travel issues. We commissioned this photo essay, which is running in the spring travel issue, months before a new virus began spreading around the world — making the idea of travel seem, for now, undesirable, even frightening. But life will, at some point, return to normal. And when that happens, these destinations will once again be remarkable havens to consider as you plot future trips.

Photo editing by Haley Hamblin. Design by Michael Johnson.

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