Kodachrome Memory: Nathan Benn's North Shore, 1978

Brooklyn Heights resident Nathan Benn brings Kodachrome Memory to The Cape Ann Museum, a collection of 30 images taken on assignment for National Geographic Magazine of life in the Massachusetts coastal location in 1978.

Kodachrome Memory: Nathan Benn's North Shore, 1978

Kodachrome Memory, a special exhibition of photographs at The Cape Ann Museum taken in and around Cape Ann, Massachusetts, in 1978 by Nathan Benn, features more than 30 images taken by Benn while on assignment on Boston’s North Shore for National Geographic Magazine.

Nathan Benn was a photographer for National Geographic Magazine and was assigned to photograph on Boston’s North Shore for six months, from June through October 1978. He shot a total of 286 rolls of film, relying on Kodak’s long-lived and much loved 35-mm color film Kodachrome. A selection of the images was published by National Geographic in April 1979, illustrating an article written by Randall S. Peffer, the author of Waterman, a study of the lives of fishermen in the Chesapeake Bay area. The title of Benn and Peffer’s National Geographic article was Harboring Old Ways; it included images of sculptors Walker Hancock and Katharine Lane Weems, the painter Emile Gruppé in his Rocky Neck studio, radio broadcaster Simon Geller and residents of Rockport celebrating the Fourth of July. Benn’s success at capturing the spirit of Cape Ann and its people is attributed not only to his keen observation skills but also to the fact that he was new to the community, an interloper viewing the area with a fresh and inquisitive eye through the lens of his camera.

On Saturday, January 7, Benn will speak about his 20-year career as a photographer with the magazine, one of this country’s most beloved and longest-lived publications. The photographs will remain on view through February 19, 2017.

Nathan Benn served on the National Geographic photographic staff from 1972 into 1991 and 300 of his photographs were published in National Geographic Magazine, and hundreds more in numerous books. The Brooklyn Heights' resident moved to digital in 1991 and started Picture Network International (PNI), the first stock photography website, going online in 1993. In 2000, he became the director of Magnum Photos.

Purchase Kodachrome Memory

Kodachrome Memory was produced as a book to accompany the special exhibition at the Cape Ann Museum on view from December 27, 2016 through February 19, 2017.

“As America huffed and puffed to the end of the 1970s, more than an era was ending. One America was vanishing and simultaneously giving birth to who we are today. Kodachrome Memory: American Pictures 1972-1990 presents a last glimpse of America that was, the last stand of the old order, the final tired, proud, alive moments of distinctive regionalism before the information age hastened a great cultural flattening. If ever a camera’s shutter could render a subject infinite, these images of people rich and poor, their private spaces and material culture, capture that last America before the last revolution.

Nathan Benn embraced color photography before it was considered an acceptable medium for serious documentary expression, traveling globally for National Geographic magazine for two decades. In revisiting his archive of almost half a million images, and editing his photographs with a 21st century perspective, he discovered hundreds of unpublished American pictures that appeared inconsequential to the editors of the 1970s-1980s, but now resonate with empathetic insight.

Kodachrome Memory exemplifies forthright storytelling about everyday people and vernacular spaces. The photographs, organized by geographic and cultural affinities (North East, Heartland, Pittsbrurgh, and Florida) raise questions rather than purport facts; they enchant with elegant forms and unexpected details.”


The Cape Ann Museum features seven main galleries and five ancillary ones, each exploring a particular aspect of the region's history and culture through permanent and special exhibitions. The Cape Ann Gallery provides visitors with a glimpse back at the early history of Cape Ann from the Colonial period through the mid-19th century as well as an overview of how the Museum's collection has grown and evolved over the decades.

The Lane Gallery spotlights the renowned 19th century luminist painter and Gloucester native Fitz Henry Lane (1804–1865) with a display of over 40 of his paintings, lithographs and pencil drawings. Two of the Museum's galleries are devoted to Cape Ann during the heyday of the offshore fishing industry when Gloucester Harbor was a forest of sails and fish harvested by fishermen from the Canadian Maritime Provinces, the Azores and Sicily were shipped across the country and around the world. Additional galleries showcase the Folly Cove Designer Collection, a first order Fresnel lens from Thachers Island, Cape Ann's granite quarrying industry and works from the Museum's permanent collection including masterpieces by such well known painters and sculptors as John Sloan, Marsden Hartley, Milton Avery, Katharine Lane Weems, Paul Manship and Walker Hancock. Work by contemporary artists is also included in the collection.

Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. The Museum will also be closed on February 8, 2017 for a staff retreat.

The Museum is located in the heart of downtown Gloucester, MA, (27 Pleasant St, Gloucester, MA 01930) one block north from Main Street and one short block east of City Hall and the Sawyer Free Library. Metered parking is available in the public lot across from the Museum.


Laurie Cabot, an American Witchcraft High Priestess of Salem, Massachusetts visiting abandoned Dogtown near Gloucester, Massachusetts. ©Nathan Benn
Laurie Cabot, an American Witchcraft High Priestess of Salem, Massachusetts visiting abandoned Dogtown near Gloucester, Massachusetts. ©Nathan Benn