Marketing a Queer San Francisco

adapted from Wide Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965 by Nan Alamilla Boyd


Each year at the end of June, San Francisco fills with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) tourists. The Castro Theater in San Francisco’s gay neighborhood screens a week-long lesbian-gay-themed film festival, the city flies multicolored gay pride flags from poles stretching the length of Market Street, and crowds of up to half a million gather for the annual Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade on the last Sunday in June.

June is a lucrative month for gay-owned businesses. Gay bars, restaurants, and hotels fill to capacity, and stores catering to gay tourists do a brisk trade in pride rings, necklaces, and T-shirts. While gay tourism is good for gay businesses, the revenue generated from gay tourism reaches beyond the GLBT community. Of the 4.2 million hotel guests who made San Francisco a destination in 1999, 4.6 percent dined in the Castro district at least once, bringing almost $10 million in revenue to the city in restaurant business alone.

As was the case in the postwar years, the ability of the GLBT community to draw tourist dollars to the city affects its strength in relation to city politics. In the 1940s and 1950s, San Francisco’s tourist economy gave gay bars a foothold in San Francisco’s North Beach district. Currently, as gay tourism draws millions of dollars to San Francisco each year, gay, lesbian, and transgender community representatives from San Francisco serve both elected and appointed positions within municipal, state, and federal government offices.

Today, large corporations with familiar brand names are eager to capitalize on gay dollars and gay spending power. While this phenomenon— niche marketing to gay and lesbian shoppers—promises to open up new modes of visibility (and presumed social acceptance), the large-scale and corporate commercialization of queer culture threatens to transfer the control of representations of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people from the hands of activists and community members to large corporations.

Along with homophile movement activism, the culture of gay, lesbian, and transgender bars and nightclubs contributed significantly to the form and function of a resistant queer social movement. In fact, in its prideful assertion of difference, bar culture transmitted the progressive idea of minority rights (or rights based in the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause) to the larger lesbian and gay movement for social change. Initially, gay and lesbian bar owners resisted prohibitions against serving a homosexual clientele simply to protect their livelihood— the quintessentially American “right to make a buck.”

However, as the harassment of gay and lesbian bars continued, bar owners shifted their strategy. Leaning on the Bill of Rights, lawyers representing the interests of bar owners, bartenders, and patrons argued that homosexuals should not be denied access to public accommodation. In this way, bar-based communities asserted their fundamental right to association and assembly. Because these arguments resonated with other minority-based civil rights campaigns, most notably the African American Civil Rights Movement, legal challenges to the harassment of gay and lesbian bars were successful in securing limited civil rights for queers.

In its fundamental differences from mainstream society, gay and lesbian culture was strong. It was the strength of difference and the historic projection of a unique sexual culture that enabled— and continues to enable—queer life in San Francisco to forcefully assert gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender civil rights.


Nan Alamilla Boyd is Professor of Women and Gender Studies at San Francisco State University. She is the author of Wide Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965 and co-editor of Bodies of Evidence, the Practice of Queer Oral History (Oxford, 2012).


A Queer History Reading List

#PrideMonth is upon us, and while we are out celebrating we must not forget the past and what has brought us to this important moment in queer history. Jump into the past, ranging from gay L.A. to the AIDS years in New York City, with these selected titles.

Lavender and Red: Liberation and Solidarity in the Gay and Lesbian Left by Emily K. Hobson

LGBT activism is often imagined as a self-contained struggle, inspired by but set apart from other social movements. Lavender and Red recounts a far different story: a history of queer radicals who understood their sexual liberation as intertwined with solidarity against imperialism, war, and racism. Bringing together archival research, oral histories, and vibrant images, Emily K. Hobson rediscovers the radical queer past for a generation of activists today.

 

Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians by Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons

The exhortation to “Go West!” has always sparked the American imagination. But for gays, lesbians, and transgendered people, the City of Angels provided a special home and gave rise to one of the most influential gay cultures in the world. Drawing on rare archives and photographs as well as more than three hundred interviews, Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons chart L.A.’s unique gay history, from the first missionary encounters with Native American cross-gendered “two spirits” to cross-dressing frontier women in search of their fortunes; from the bohemian freedom of early Hollywood to the explosion of gay life during World War II to the underground radicalism set off by the 1950s blacklist; and from the 1960s gay liberation movement to the creation of gay marketing in the 1990s.

 

The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination by Sarah Schulman

In this gripping memoir of the AIDS years (1981–1996), Sarah Schulman recalls how much of the rebellious queer culture, cheap rents, and a vibrant downtown arts movement vanished almost overnight to be replaced by gay conservative spokespeople and mainstream consumerism. Schulman takes us back to her Lower East Side and brings it to life, filling these pages with vivid memories of her avant-garde queer friends and dramatically recreating the early years of the AIDS crisis as experienced by a political insider.

 

An Archive of Hope: Harvey Milk’s Speeches and Writings edited by Jason Edward Black and Charles E. Morris

Harvey Milk was one of the first openly and politically gay public officials in the United States, and his remarkable activism put him at the very heart of a pivotal civil rights movement reshaping America in the 1970s. An Archive of Hope is Milk in his own words, bringing together in one volume a substantial collection of his speeches, columns, editorials, political campaign materials, open letters, and press releases, culled from public archives, newspapers, and personal collections.

 

Wide-Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965 by Nan Alamilla Boyd

Wide-Open Town traces the history of gay men and lesbians in San Francisco from the turn of the century, when queer bars emerged in San Francisco’s tourist districts, to 1965, when a raid on a drag ball changed the course of queer history. Bringing to life the striking personalities and vibrant milieu that fueled this era, Nan Alamilla Boyd examines the culture that developed around the bar scene and homophile activism.


An Invitation to the San Francisco Release Party for Nonstop Metropolis at McRoskey Mattress Factory, 11/17

A note from Rebecca: This event has been planned for a long time. But after the election, we’re making it a focus on cities as cosmopolitan places of coexistence, tolerance, subversion, resistance, and joy, of Black, Asian, Latino, Muslim, Jewish, Quaker, immigrant, queer, drag, trans, feminist lives and victories. Please join us tomorrow evening for this free community celebration. 

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“In orienting oneself in this atlas…one is invited to fathom the many New Yorks hidden from history’s eye…thoroughly terrific.”—Maria Popova, Brain Pickings
“Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro’s collection achieves the trifold purpose that all good cartography does — it’s beautiful, it inspires real thought about civic planning, and, most of all, it’s functional.”—The Village Voice
“…the New York installment [of the Atlas Trilogy] is eccentric and inspiring, a nimble work of social history told through colorful maps and corresponding essays. Together, Solnit, Jelly-Schapiro and a host of contributors — writers, artists, cartographers and data-crunchers — have come up with dozens of exciting new ways to think about the five boroughs.” —San Francisco Chronicle

Nonstop Metropolis, the culminating volume in a trilogy of atlases, conveys innumerable unbound experiences of New York City through twenty-six imaginative maps and informative essays. Bringing together the insights of dozens of experts—from linguists to music historians, ethnographers, urbanists, and environmental journalists—amplified by cartographers, artists, and photographers, it explores all five boroughs of New York City and parts of nearby New Jersey.

We are invited to travel through Manhattan’s playgrounds, from polyglot Queens to many-faceted Brooklyn, and from the resilient Bronx to the mystical kung fu hip-hop mecca of Staten Island. The contributors to this exquisitely designed and gorgeously illustrated volume celebrate New York City’s unique vitality, its incubation of the avant-garde, and its literary history, but they also critique its racial and economic inequality, environmental impact, and erasure of its past. Nonstop Metropolis allows us to excavate New York’s buried layers, to scrutinize its political heft, and to discover the unexpected in one of the most iconic cities in the world. It is both a challenge and homage to how New Yorkers think of their city, and how the world sees this capital of capitalism, culture, immigration, and more.

Learn more in our Nonstop Metropolis blog series.


Rebecca Solnit is a San Francisco writer, historian, and activist, and the author of seventeen books about geography, community, art, politics, hope, and feminism. She is the recipient of many awards, including the Lannan Literary Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. A product of the California public education system from kindergarten to graduate school, she is a contributing editor to Harper’s, where she is the first woman to regularly write the Easy Chair column (founded in 1851).

Joshua Jelly-Schapiro is a geographer and writer whose work has appeared in The New York Review of Books, New York, Harper’s, and the Believer, among many other publications. He is the author of the newly-released Island People: The Caribbean and the World.

Contributors: Sheerly Avni, Gaiutra Bahadur, Marshall Berman, Joe Boyd, Will Butler, Garnette Cadogan, Thomas J. Campanella, Daniel Aldana Cohen, Teju Cole, Joel Dinerstein, Paul La Farge, Francisco Goldman, Margo Jefferson, Lucy R. Lippard, Barry Lopez, Valeria Luiselli, Suketu Mehta, Emily Raboteau, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, Luc Sante, Heather Smith, Jonathan Tarleton, Astra Taylor, Alexandra T. Vazquez, Christina Zanfagna

Interviews with: Valerie Capers, Peter Coyote, Grandmaster Caz, Grandwizzard Theodore, Melle Mel, RZA


Behind-the-Scenes at UC Press: The Making of Rebecca Solnit’s Atlas Series

By Lia Tjandra, Art Director with Dore Brown, Principal Editor

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A winning team: Lia Tjandra and Dore Brown

Each title in the atlas series had more moving pieces than any other book we’ve published. Multiple authors and contributors produced different parts that were worked on at different times. In our roles of project editor and art director, Dore Brown and I were the hub of the wheel, receiving and disbursing material from artists, cartographers, photographers, writers, copyeditors, proofreaders, museum partners, in-house staff, and, of course, the volume editors. It was a far cry from our usual linear workflow.

One of the first design decisions we made for the atlas trilogy was the trim size. I proposed that each map be shown on a spread and that the spread dimensions be square-ish, the way San Francisco is square-ish. In 2011, after the initial success of Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas, I briefly entertained the idea that the atlases for New Orleans and New York should have customized trim sizes that fit their respective map footprints. This was totally impractical, of course, and detrimental to the harmonious series look. But it was fun to imagine for a brief time!

Rebecca Solnit, who’s incredibly well connected to people in the artistic and intellectual community, brought in San Francisco artist Alison Pebworth to conceptualize and put on paper the logos for all three atlases. Each atlas has a unique visual identity, brainchild of Alison and Rebecca’s creative partnership. For the final logos, check out the finished books, but you may find these in-process sketches fascinating.

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Sketch by Alice Pebworth, for Infinite City
2 AP_infinite
Sketch by Alice Pebworth, for Infinite City
3 AP_Unfathomable
Sketch by Alice Pebworth, for Unfathomable City
4 AP_Unfathomable_
Sketch by Alice Pebworth, for Unfathomable City
5 AP_Nonstop
Sketch by Alice Pebworth, for Nonstop Metropolis

For each map, I started work with a base map from the cartographer. The very first map, Monarchs and Queens, had a skeletal, almost wire-frame appearance. We hadn’t developed a look or any map specifications yet, hence what you see here, from Ben Pease, is raw.

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Raw map for Monarchs and Queens from Infinite City

Many months later, we had established the general look and feel of the maps, including the color palettes and type specs. Here’s the resulting Monarchs and Queens vector file.

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Vector file for Monarchs and Queens map from Infinite City

After the map had been edited, I sent it to Mona Caron, a local mural artist. She tailored her illustration to the parameters of the map to create a vibrant piece of art that raised the map to a whole new level.

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Final version of Monarchs and Queens map with illustration from Infinite City

The palette is one of the most important elements of each book. For Infinite City, the palette is muted and chalky. For Unfathomable City, we represented New Orleans with a watery and translucent look. For Nonstop Metropolis, we choose deeper and more intense colors to reflect New York’s energy and complexity.

It takes multiple rounds to get it right, and at least once during the production of each atlas we took all of the in-progress maps and spread them out on tables to see how they were gelling. The final decisions were always made by Rebecca and her coeditors.

Wildlife is one example of the creative process. Take a look at this early sketch and see how wildly the background colors and illustrations by Tino Rodríguez differ from the final version.

1 Wildlife_rough
Rough version of Wildlife map from Nonstop Metropolis, illustrations by Tino Rodríguez
2 Wildlife_Final
Final version of Wildlife map from Nonstop Metropolis, illustrations by Tino Rodríguez

From Nonstop metropolis: viewing a city’s crazy, diverse, complex history as an atlas in The Guardian:

“Tennessee Williams said: ‘America has only three cities, New York, San Francisco and New Orleans. All the rest are just Cleveland,’” Solnit explains, before admitting there were other reasons she expanded this undertaking, which began as a commission from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, to include the Big Apple and the Big Easy.

“They’re cultural capitals, three port cities on the three coasts of the US,” she says. “New York has been hovering in the wings for a long time. When this book comes out in October, I will be done making atlases for the foreseeable future.”

Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas is the final volume in our trilogy of atlases by Rebecca Solnit, Rebecca SnedekerJoshua Jelly-Schapiro, and a host of notable contributors. Following the publication of the critically lauded Infinite City (San Francisco) and Unfathomable City (New Orleans), we bring you this homage—and challenge—to the way we know New York City, an exquisitely designed and gorgeously illustrated atlas that excavates the many buried layers of all five boroughs of New York City and parts of New Jersey.

To get a copy of Nonstop Metropolis, visit your local bookstore, or purchase online at IndieBoundAmazonBarnes & Noble, or UC Press (to save 30% on ucpress.edu, enter discount code16M4197 at checkout).

This post is part of a series on the atlas trilogy.


Bruce Conner and the Making of a Community

by Anastasia Aukeman, author of Welcome to Painterland: Bruce Conner and the Rat Bastard Protective Association

About sixteen years ago, as the artist Bruce Conner and I were leaving his favorite restaurant in San Francisco, we began talking about the Rat Bastard Protective Association. I had been working with Bruce for about three years by that time, as director of the art gallery that represented him in New York City, and had already mounted the show “Dead Punks and Ashes” for the gallery, of Conner’s photos and photocopy collages that memorialize punk rockers from his Mabuhay Garden days in the late 1970s. I had also worked with him on an exhibition of his inkblot drawings from 1975-1997. Now I wanted to know more about his early career.

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“Perhaps we could do a show of your assemblages,” I told him, pronouncing the word with a French inflection. He stopped in his tracks and shot me a withering look. “Assemblage?” He practically spat the word. “Assemblage? This is not France. San Francisco is not the Paris of the West. It’s assemblage. Here, we say assemblage.” For someone who didn’t know Bruce, the outburst might have ended the conversation. But I had learned that his impatience often stemmed from the frustration of having his work misinterpreted, so I simply made a mental note of the correction and charged on.

I asked Conner if the assemblages (no French inflection) he was making in the 1950s were influenced by the work of Los Angeles-based artist Edward Kienholz, who was also making assemblages around that time. The answer was a resounding no. In fact, Conner said, Kienholz was influenced by his work, not the other way around.

Conner went on to say that he was deeply influenced by the work of his friends in San Francisco, and that it was his desire to unify this small group of artists and poets that led him to create the Rat Bastard Protective Association soon after moving there in the fall of 1957. To formalize the group, Conner made what he called the “approved seal of the Rat Bastard Protective Association,” a rubber stamp designed to be used by members to sign their artworks and anything else they deemed worthy of their approval. Like so much of Conner’s works, the rubber stamp was multivalent: it signaled belonging, it commodified, it spoke of hubris, and it was funny. Most of all, though, the stamp was designed to unify a group of artists who felt alienated from the mainstream and deprived of institutional acceptance (if only because few knew about them).

The sense of community that Conner described that day caught my imagination and I recognized—and Conner affirmed—that an entire book could be written about the Rat Bastard Protective Association, these young artists and poets who were working on the margins in San Francisco and whose story outlines the subversive beginnings of the Beat Generation in the 1950s. Welcome to Painterland: Bruce Conner and the Rat Bastard Protective Association is the culmination of that long-ago conversation.


Listen to the Modern Art Notes podcast interview with Anastasia Aukeman and Gary Garrels, curator of the ‘BRUCE CONNER: IT’S ALL TRUE’ exhibition currently at MoMA, and opening at SFMOMA on October 29, 2016.  Gary Garrels is also one of the editors of the impressive exhibition catalogue UC Press published in association with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

You can enter to win a copy of Welcome to Painterland in our Goodreads giveaway through August 26, 2016.


IMG_9532Anastasia Aukeman is an art historian and curator who teaches at Parsons School of Design in New York City.

 

 

 

 

 


On the town with David Ireland

We’ve been keeping a close eye on the restoration of 500 Capp Street, home of David Ireland for many years. Not least of all, because we recently published 500 Capp Street: David Ireland’s House by Constance M. Lewallen.

But, in case you missed it, the David Ireland moment in San Francisco is now.

The recently restored house museum is open and delighting the crowds. Sign up for a guided tour, or attend one of the many happenings at the house here.

The San Francisco Art Institute’s David Ireland exhibition, also curated by Connie Lewallen, opened last weekend to a phenomenal turnout. Be sure to catch it before it closes on March 26th.

Angel-Go-Round, opening reception of David Ireland exhibition, San Francisco Art Institute
Angel-Go-Round (panorama), opening reception of David Ireland exhibition, San Francisco Art Institute

And, the Anglim Gilbert Gallery is also hosting an exhibition honoring David Ireland’s work through February 27th.

To learn more, we suggest the following:

SFAQ’s review of 500 Capp Street

“Constance Lewallen has created a detailed, generously illustrated guide to this ‘cabinet of wonders’ . . . a valuable accompaniment to visiting Ireland’s house at 500 Capp Street.”—Sally B. Woodbridge, SFAQ

Tyler Green’s Modern Art Notes Podcast featuring Constance Lewallen

New York Times piece on the restoration of 500 Capp Street

SF Gate story, ‘Taking up residence for a day. . .’

After all that, we’re wagering you may still not have had enough DI in your life, so to save 30% on 500 Capp Street: David Ireland’s House and The Art of David Ireland: The Way Things Are—enter discount code 16W917B at checkout.


Jewel City: Art from San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition at the de Young

This week marks the opening of a truly historic exhibition at the de Young Museum, and we are proud to be the publishing partner for the lavishly illustrated accompanying catalogue, Jewel City: Art from San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

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Timed with the centennial of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) of 1915, Jewel City presents a large and representative selection of artworks from the fair, emphasizing the variety of paintings, sculptures, photographs, and prints that greeted attendees. It is unique in its focus on the works of art that were scattered among the venues of the exposition—the most comprehensive art exhibition ever shown on the West Coast. It notably included the first American presentations of Italian Futurism, Austrian Expressionism, and Hungarian avant-garde painting, and there were also major displays of paintings by prominent Americans, especially those working in the Impressionist style.

This slideshow showcases just some of the delights of the exhibit.

Don’t miss visiting the museum for this rich and fascinating study of a critical moment in American and European art history. You will be transported back to an artistic salon inside the Palace of Fine Arts, and impressed by stunning works by famous and unknown artists alike.

Member preview hours are today, and the opening day of the exhibit (Saturday, October 17th) coincides with a free community day in celebration of 10 years of the new de Young.

Coverage of the exhibition can be explored via the below links, and for additional events celebrating the centennial of the PPIE visit, http://www.ppie100.org/

SF Gate exhibition review

SF Gate exhibition feature

Wall Street Journal exhibition feature


Litquake 2012 Offers a Bounty of UC Press Authors

LitquakeAt this year’s Litquake Festival, a series of literary events in the Bay Area through October 13 (most of them free), you won’t be able to throw a stone without hitting a UC Press author. Below is a full schedule of events featuring our authors (names in bold). You can find out more at the links below and at litquake.org. UC Press is proud to join other Bay Area organizations in sponsoring this year’s festival.

 

 

October 11, 2012 – 6:00 p.m.
Koret Auditorium, San Francisco Public Library

One City One Book 2012 author Rebecca Solnit discusses her book, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster, with Joanne Hayes-White, Fire Chief of San Francisco. Solnit’s work explores our need for community and common purpose, which she argues are fundamental to democratic forms of social and political life. This year, as part of the 8th annual One City One Book, SFPL is participating in California Reads, a statewide reading and discussion program created by Cal Humanities in partnership with the California Center for the Book, and supported by the California State Library.

October 11, 2012 – 6:00 p.m.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Artist/author/geographer Trevor Paglen presents a multimedia performance/lecture that attempts to explain to an audience — in the distant future, long after the traces of human civilization have disappeared — what happened to the people who built a ring of communications satellites around Earth. Presented in conjunction with the release of Paglen’s book from UC Press, The Last Pictures.
6 p.m.: Book Signing in the Atrium
7 p.m.: Artist Talk in thge Phyllis Attis Theater

October 12, 2012 – 6:00 p.m.
The Bold Italic, 32 Page St.

Litquake’s first-ever Pairing Profiles event will combine dessert tastings and after-dinner drinks, at the lovely literature-themed designer offices of The Bold Italic. This delectable events features presentations from ice cream impresarios Jake Godby and Sean Vahey, author Lara Starr, First Lady of Chocolate Alice Medrich, and Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein. Mingle with other dessert and wine lovers as you debate the merits of pairing ice cream with Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Port, Rosenblum Cellars late harvest Viognier, St. George Spirits’ Breaking & Entering bourbon, and other luscious libations (included in price).

October 13, 2012 – 2:00 p.m.
David Brower Center, Goldman Theater
Co-presented by UC Press

Join Litquake as we celebrate the launch of the upcoming book Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party, the Party’s first comprehensive overview and analysis today. The authors analyze key political questions, such as why so many young black people across the country risked their lives for the revolution, why the Party grew most rapidly during the height of repression, and why allies abandoned the Party at its peak of influence. With co-author Waldo E. Martin, Jr., and featuring rare images and archival footage from Mike Gray’s classic 1971 documentary film The Murder of Fred Hampton. Book sales and signing to follow.

October 13, 2012 – 3:00 p.m.
The Marsh Arts Center

In the 1980s, the decade that invented the word “foodie,” eating became a serious cultural pursuit. But the past decade saw food transition from an absorbing pastime to become the central act that defines who we are. How did food morph into politics? Join us for a fresh conversation with leaders in the food trenches who get to the heart of the national food debate, demystify the science of taste, and explain how to truly make a difference through your food choices. Moderator John Birdsall. UC Press author: Julie Guthman


Photographers Share Reflections On Sleeping at Alcatraz

This month, we’re publishing Hidden Alcatraz, a unique collection of images taken by thirty-four photographers who were granted unprecedented access to the island. Guided by rangers, they explored places off the normal day tour: the prison roof and lighthouse; the hospital; the tunnels; the morgue; the rumored “dungeon” beneath the cell blocks. At midnight, they were left to sleep in jail cells if they could stomach it.

In the book—and in the six photos excerpted below—you can glimpse life on the island apart from the crowds, the tours, and the souvenirs. The images present diverse visions of beauty in decay, highlighting the eerie, almost supernatural mood of the former prison.

Accompanying the photos, the photographers offer their reflections on encountering haunting traces of former inmates, staying overnight in a cell, and the special qualities that make the island ripe for gorgeous photography.

Linda Hanson, "Death"
Linda Hanson, "Death"

“Sleeping in a cell was bizarre and strange. Not something I ever wish to do again. Like ghosts, we wandered the cell blocks at night, shooting shadows and calling out just to hear the echos. It was a haunting night in a haunting place.”

Dan Katzman, "The Guards' Tunnel to the Prison Laundry"
Dan Katzman, "The Guards' Tunnel to the Prison Laundry"

“Alcatraz is an amazing place to photograph because of its inherent contradictions. A forbidding place of man set among great natural beauty. A building created for permanence that is crumbling before our very eyes. Water stained ceilings replace bland institutional sameness.”

Deborah Roundtree, "Utensil and Knife Box, Kitchen"
Deborah Roundtree, "Utensil and Knife Box, Kitchen"

“There is a haunting certainty about Alcatraz. You are literally on a rock. All your feelings, thoughts and dreams are contained. You look across the Bay, and see one of the most beautiful cities in the world, San Francisco, with all its richness and textures of life. It’s an odd feeling of isolation and loss.”

Anton Orlov, "In the Laundry Room"
Anton Orlov, "In the Laundry Room"

“Alcatraz has always been a mysterious island to me. The story of a prison-island that now lay abandoned; the stories told and untold that surrounded it; the many historical layers that once thrived and now simply rested there—all evoked an eerie surreal image in my mind of an island full of ghosts that haunt it day and night.”

Steve Fritz, "Graffiti in the Prison Chapel"
Steve Fritz, "Graffiti in the Prison Chapel"
Steve Fritz, "Room with No View"
Steve Fritz, "Room with No View"

“I was drawn to Alcatraz by the opportunity to spend a weekend photographing and sleeping in the most infamous prison in the world, and the chance to meet and work with other Bay Area photographers, and together explore the photographic richness and possibilities of the island.”


Travel Back to 1930s San Francisco with David Kipen

San Francisco in the 1930s cover imageDavid Kipen served for seven years as book editor and book critic for the San Francisco Chronicle before relocating to L.A., where he started the used bookstore and lending library, Libros Schmibros. Kipen makes his triumphant return to San Francisco this Tuesday night, where he will read from UC Press’s new edition of San Francisco in the 1930s: The WPA Guide to the City by the Bay at the Main Branch of San Francisco’s Public Library.

Kipen writes, “As a wormhole from your seat on the N Judah into the 1930s, the WPA guide to San Francisco is well nigh unimprovable. Like any decent time capsule, San Francisco in the 1930s is really a time machine instead. But every page of this guide doubles as an exhortation to study the Bay around us, and envision the Bay Area of 70 years from now in its place.”

The event begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Library’s Koret Auditorium, and Kipen will be joined by Gray Brechin of California’s Living New Deal Project for a discussion of the book.

Learn more about the San Francisco WPA Guide and its companion edition, Los Angeles in the 1930s: The WPA Guide to the City of Angels, in this review in BeyondChron.