1. Notes on “Here” at Pier 24, San Francisco

    Eadweard Muybridge, one panel of a photographic panorama of San Francisco, 1878

    The incredible California buffet exhibit at Pier 24 is called “Here.” There are 34 photographers, with an emphasis on the last 50 years - there’s not a single Ansel Adams photograph, just a few Dorothea Lange and Edward Weston, no Imogen Cunningham or Minor White. The exhibit looks past the fantasy of unpopulated nature. Instead it’s the settlements and post-disaster photographs, where everything built seems temporary, that the true power and duration of California’s landscape reveals itself.

    The exhibit runs into December, it’s free, make your reservation here. Here’s some of what you will see:

    • A selection of mug shots, take around 1915. It’s mostly men, hung free on clips, with the photograph attached to the card that lists the name, occupation, height and weight of the suspect. Old mug shots have a strange effect, it was a hungry time and there are desperate eyes, but the style of portrait (large format, printed by hand) and clothes (thicker, hand-crafted) have a certain luxury about them. (Archival photographs, presumably from SFPD)

    • Mark Klett, Panorama of San Francisco, 1990

    • Two vast panoramas of the city of San Francisco, from similar vantage points. One is from about 1878, one is from 1990. There are natural landmarks in both panoramas - Marin Headlands, Alcatraz Island and various hills to help you compare. You can find what is obviously new, the modern buildings are bigger and take up more of the frames, but there are plenty of aspects of the city have not changed in 100 years and several earthquakes. Both are large format prints, but the older panorama is of breathtaking tone and resolution, you can see minute details, the wood stairs, sacks of something left by the door of houses. I used to imagine post-gold rush San Francisco as a large Old West town, but this panorama shows a fully realized city. (1878 by Muybridge, 1990 by Mark Klett)

    • Several minutes of a car chase through the streets of San Francisco in the late 1960s, filmed originally for a movie, but dialogue removed, featuring a man in a turtleneck driving a forest green 1968 390 CID V8 Ford Mustang that leaps over various hills in the city. (Peter Yates, “Bullit”)
    • A collection of photographs from 1800s Yosemite - out of 700 photographs in the exhibit, these are perhaps the only ones that have no evidence of human settlement. Or do they? There’s so much resolution in these large prints that they challenge you to look: is it a boat across the river, a trail coming out of the woods in the corner of the frame? Finally a full portrait, a man curled into the folds of giant Sequoia tree, disheveled and bearded. Why do men of this era, both the loggers of the largest trees on earth and the photographers, always look so spooked? (a portfolio of Carleton Watkins prints)

    • Larry Sultan, Canal District San Rafael, 2006

    • Suburban California views featured in large color prints, recent, some mundane, some in the midst of breathtaking landscapes. Migrant workers are featured in every photograph, sometimes hiding in small corners, sometimes in the center of the frame, going somewhere, carrying something, on a journey. (the late, very great Larry Sultan)
    • The photographs of San Francisco after the earthquake are perhaps the original ‘ruins porn.’ The most effective show the scale of the destruction, Victorian-era pedestrians give context, they became instant tourists in their own destroyed city. In some photos the streets barely exist, covered in a river of fallen brick. (Arnold Genthe’s 1906 photos)

    • Todd Hido, Untitled 2122, 1997

    • Suburban northern California homes at night, often foggy, humming with long exposure light. There’s a quote, maybe in the back of the Sontag book, that goes something like: a 1/125th of a second photo offers the illusion of something that can never happen again, and a long exposure photograph offers the illusion of something that never happened. I’ve seen all these on the internet and in the book version, but I never realized how many different light temperatures there are at night. Sit on the bench across from the set and squint a little, it’s a color chart. You could hang them from red to yellow to blue. (45 medium sized prints, House Hunting series by Todd Hido)

    • Henry Wessel, Walapai, Arizona, 1971

    • A collection of photographs that mix landscapes, never far from the highway, and city scenes. The light in the landscapes is like Robert Adams, stunning, but the evidence of human settlement is not viewed as catastrophic, instead this photographer embraces the wit of Gary Winogrand. (a wonderful selection of Henry Wessel, including a handful from “Night Walk” which are interesting to compare to Hido’s work in the next gallery)

    • Hiroshi Sugimoto, Castro Theatre, San Francisco, 1992

    • Several Bay Area movie houses, the exposures are the duration of an entire movie (which leaves the screen a bright glow). Exquisite prints. There’s one of the Castro Theatre, still one of the best places in the United States to see a movie. (Hiroshi Sugimoto)

    • Richard Misrach, Telegraph 3 a.m., Berkeley, ca. 1971-72 

    • A large collection of black and white portraits from the early 1970s in Berkeley. The cultural moment whose exhaust we still breathe, but these portraits are not of “flower children,” hippies or any identifiable cliche of that era. The fashion is familiar, but the addition of the interiors completely changes the context. There’s very little optimism that the era supposedly generated, this is the aftermath, the hangover, these are portraits of defiance and desperation. (Early Richard Misrach, aligned with Larry Clark, William Gedney or Danny Lyon, one of the big revelations of the show.)

    • Richard Misrach, Oakland, 1991

    • As you walk into Pier 24 you are confronted with a massive color landscape, a fire has consumed everything in your field of vision. Only this photograph captures the scale of the firestorm, not the photograph during the fire, but after. Everything is the color of ash, the horizon exists only as sooty haze, there are a few cars that are melted cartoon cars, outlines of what were houses, wide suburban streets. This is one of the most compelling cases for what some call “slow photography” - photography that is last on the scene at an event like a fire, riot or plane crash. An 8x10 camera is set up, compositions are made, not grabbed. Only a few frames are made and stored away. Time between the event and the editing is only a good thing. (Richard Misrach, presented a collection of prints to several Bay Area museums - 20 years after the fires)


    • Jim Goldberg’s large, multi-panel prints on craft paper (also on view at SFMOMA)
    • Lewis Baltz’s Candlestick point series from 1989
    • Doug Rickard’s A New American Picture
    • Robert Frank and Friedlander on the streets of San Francisco
    • Irving Penn’s portrait of the Hell’s Angels, Diane Arbus’ topless dancer (presumably in North Beach)
    • Notes on the previous exhibit at Pier 24

    22 September 2011

    notes: 25 | tagged: notes san francisco |

    1. callmebartleby reblogged this from bremser
    2. meganmcisaac said: fuck yes, cant wait to see it in november when im down there
    3. invisiblestories said: This looks fantastic. Thanks for the heads up.
    4. bremser posted this