New York Times Sunday Styles Magazine Assignment | John Derian, “The Prodigal Son”


A couple months ago, I was contacted by Carter Love, photo editor at T Magazine | New York Times Sunday Styles. He asked if I would be interested in an assignment photographing Manhattan-based designer John Derian as he “returned home” to Watertown, where he grew up as the youngest son of a large Armenian/Scottish working-class family. You can guess my response.

The day of the shoot turned out to be a rainy and dreary one, which resulted in quite moody images. As I accompanied John and writer Sadie Stein, I realized the weather was a perfect fit for John’s ambivalent relationship to his past growing up along Mt. Auburn Street. Throughout the day, I learned a lot about John. His mood would change quickly, from humorous and giddy to suddenly sullen and even contemptuous. You could see the memories flooding his consciousness faster than he could digest, as he tried his best to share all these memories with us.


Times Slideshow, John Derian’s Old Stomping Grounds


To read the magazine article “The Prodigal Son | John Derian Goes Home to Watertown”, click here. Below I have posted my favorite images from the day, and some information about what you are looking at.

First stop was Harvard Square. John worked at the Brattle Street Theater and hung out at various spots in the Square as a teen.


Next, we head to Mt. Auburn Cemetery. John also spent time here as a teenager, and reflected on the macabre beauty that shows through in his own design.



Town Diner in Watertown, where John went to dinner on Friday nights with his siblings as his parents worked.



Mt. Auburn Star Market – a place every member of his family worked at some point (his dad was the manager of another local Star).


Some places along Mt. Auburn Street in Watertown that have resonance for John.




Backyard of his teenage home:


Watertown High School:


The old Watertown Public Library where John spent a lot of time studying. It is currently up for lease.


Watertown Middle School: