Nick DeWolf was a pioneer in the nascent computer world and a true visionary. A little more than a decade after graduating in 1948 from MIT at age 19, he launched the tech company Teradyne (revenue hit $1.43 billion in 2013). But those close to him knew that DeWolf was also a man obsessed: Beginning with his high school days in Philadelphia, and continuing throughout his 77 years, he compulsively photographed life everywhere, especially in and around his Beacon Hill home, where this photograph was taken. “I never saw him wake up without grabbing his camera,” says Nicole DeWolf, Nick’s oldest daughter, who says that at 6-foot-5, with shoulder-length hair, her father always stood out in a crowd.
When he died of cancer in 2006, Nick left behind an astonishing body of work. Chronicling moments big and small—from the destruction of the West End to quiet Beacon Hill mornings—he caught a rapidly changing Boston. Nick’s son-in-law Steve Lundeen, now the collection’s archivist, has been digitizing and uploading the photographs to Flickr ever since. Thus far, Lundeen has put more than 72,000 photos on the Nick DeWolf site. By comparison, the Boston Public Library has posted 94,000 images on Flickr, and the Library of Congress has posted about 21,000. “He clearly thought it was important to document everything,” says Lundeen, who estimates that the Web archive could top out at 200,000.
Nick’s fixation continued right up until the day he died: “He was so obsessive he photographed himself even at the end of his life,” Nicole says. “He photographed his hospital room and his caretakers, me and my sister. He couldn’t stop.” —John Peabody
To view more of Nick’s photos, visit the Nick DeWolf Photo Archive on Flickr.
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