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I'm Susan MARA Bregman

I'm a photographer and author with an eye for the beauty in the everyday, the banged up, and the overlooked.   A long-term Boston resident, I am the author of New England Neon (2018), New England Candlepin Bowling (2020), and Along Route 1: Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts (coming in May 2023).

Like many of my counterparts, I started off in the black-and-white darkroom. When I decided to experiment with color, I went to Las Vegas to capture the city’s exuberant neon displays on film. One of my favorite photographs from that trip was an image that focused on a bank of five-cent slot machines against a crimson background. I titled that photograph Red Nickel, and the name stuck.

But something else happened in Vegas. I visited the Neon Museum in its early days, when it was still just a fenced-in parking lot chockful of deteriorating neon signs, broken glass, and pigeons. (My photo Tropical Dice is from an early visit.)  That trip changed my life.

Returning home, I began photographing neon signs in the Boston metropolitan area and, eventually, throughout New England. What started as a photography project to document the region’s disappearing neon landscape became my first book, New England Neon.

Somewhere along the way I picked up a Holga, a plastic camera that uses medium-format film. The camera has just a few controls (and they don't really work) and a cheap lens. The combination leads to dreamy, impressionistic images, and I often used my Holga to create multiple exposures that played with speed and motion. You can see some of my favorites in the Double Vision gallery on this website. 

My love for vintage neon – and the signs atop bowling alleys – led me to candlepin, a game played almost exclusively in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, and the Canadian Maritimes.  I wasn’t much of a bowler, but the history and lore of the game intrigued me. My second book, New England Candlepin Bowling, offers a glimpse into this quirky and challenging game.

In the News

The Boston Globe

“At times Susan Mara Bregman felt as if she was tracking an endangered species. As she drove through New England taking pictures of neon signs, she found some had disappeared just after she learned about them.” 

 Read story in the Boston Globe.

Telegram & Gazette

“I’m not a good bowler, but I’ve gotten better,” Susan said. “I’ve rolled terrible games, but I’ve never had a bad experience in a candlepin house." 

Read full story in the Telegram & Gazette.

BNN News

“In some ways finding the signs was the easy part,” Susan said. “Getting their stories was a little harder…I had to be a neon detective.” 

View clip on BNN News.

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