Two images, nearly 45 years apart, explore the same theme. One way to portray the human sense of aloneness is to put the subject alone in a large context, almost to the point of being almost meaningless, hard to find. The subject in this context is either not whole ( as in the Coney Island image) or is stepping into the shadow ( as in the Telegraph Hill image from 1970). Most photographers would explore this theme by focussing closely on the subject, as in a portrait with certain facial expressions to convey the theme. In both of these images the viewer is forced to look longer and closer to find the subject. To further emphasize the theme I picked places that are normally associated with lots of human traffic and times when that traffic might be minimal or non-existent.
Just as an aside: To shoot both of these images I used the same strategy, that is planting myself and camera in a location, waiting for the image/shot to come to me. This, too, is contrary to what is generally taught in photo classes; they always stress scouting your location ahead of time and going out with a plan of what you want to shoot. All good and well, but sometimes breaking the rules allows for surprising results.
Normally I let my images do the “talking” and let people decide what they see and how they see it. With these two images I got a sense of personally coming full circle, something a few words, would help to explain how they came about and how my perceptions are formed.
I posted these three images on my Instagram account late last night. After high school graduation I slipped away to spend some time with a friend who lived in East Oakland, CA. She had just finished remodeling her bathroom and so had left this pile of debris at the back of her yard. East Oakland was a very sketchy even dangerous place in 1970 ( but that is for another story). She hung bricks from her lemon tree and to me it was either just odd or perhaps even darker than odd: why would someone hang old, red bricks from a seemingly healthy lemon tree? My youthful imagination went into overdrive imagining all sorts of dark rituals or beliefs at work here. In reality, I suppose there was a very practical reason for the hanging bricks, but is sure looked odd.
Anyway, the images were old prints that I scanned into a PC last night. I think they were taken on my Agfa 35mm camera, but, 45 years later, I’m not sure.
Scanned from a 35mm print in 1970. Location: East Oakland, CA. A friend I was staying with had just remodeled her bathroom and had not yet disposed of some of the debris. I found this in her backyard and of course, was immediately thinking of a photo opportunity. Seems my interest in subject matter has not totally changed over the past 45 years :-).
Scanned from a 35mm print taken in 1970; just below Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill, San Francisco, is the Garfied School. In the far background you can see the Golden Gate Bridge. The other two images show the Garfield School today, officially named Garfield Elementary School. Adjacent to the school you can see a two-tiered outdoor playground (with students playing) for the students.
I’m not sure if this gas station is still there, but it was located about a block south of North Beach, in downtown San Francisco in 1970. I always thought it was odd that an Asian-themed design was not in Chinatown, but rather near the Italian section of SF. I guess Chevron, in their corporate wisdom, thought differently. This image was scanned from an old print shot on an Agfa 35mm camera.
Looking down Telegraph Hill towards the south. Photo taken in July, 1970. I thought it was really interesting that the sidewalks were actually sidewalk-steps, which made sense considering the grade of the hill. Also, the Bay Windows, I thought, were really neat architecturally. And, the cobblestone street (sometimes there was a layer of cement over the stones, but the cement never seemed to work well)-with all of its bumps, etc. Like stepping back farther in time than even 1970.
Vanessi’s was located in North Beach, at Broadway and Kearny. The restaurant closed in 1997. The gas station, also located in North Beach, was a little bit different than the usual corporate-designed station, even in the 1970’s-when these photos were taken.
This posting is a total departure from what I would normally do. In 1971 I travelled to San Francisco to visit with a friend who lived in East Oakland, across the bay. I would spend my days walking around San Francisco with my 35mm Agfa camera. These images are scanned from a small print that has spent 43 years in a photo album. You can get a sense of the year by the type of cars and dress that you see. The man with the hat is part of a bygone era.