Change is afoot in San Francisco and nowhere does that seem more apparent than in my studio neighborhood South of Market. In the 1970's and 1980's artist Janet Delaney began chronicling this neighborhood and the places and lives that were being transformed at the time by a wave of urban renewal efforts. My studio sits above Klockar’s Blacksmith shop which looks very much like it did when Delaney photographed it. The picture above was included in a survey of her work at the DeYoung Museum last year.
Fast forward thirty six years and here we are again. This time, a new form (the high rise condo tower) is rapidly replacing the empty lots and low rise, light industrial buildings left in the wake of the last round of urban renewal. Every day I marvel at how much new development has transformed what used to be the dominate form and scale of this neighborhood.
I am reminded of a book I used to love as a kid called The Little House by author and illustrator Virgnia Lee Burton. In the story, a little house in the country gradually becomes surrounded by other homes, then a road and finally a city with an elevated transit system. Some days in the studio I feel I have stepped inside the pages of Burton's book. Compare the images above and below this text.
Being a children’s book published in 1942, the solution to the drama and crowding of the city was for the little house to be put on a trailer and driven to a new pristine location in the country. Problem solved!
Here on Folsom Street my little studio building remains an anachronism. But it feel like an important and necessary wrinkle in the fabric of time. On the increasingly busy sidewalks surrounding this block, I feel a kinship with the ghostly figure in the famous picture by Daguerre taken in 1838.
Although Daguerre's Paris street scene was bustling with traffic and pedestrians, none of them show up in his image. His early long-form exposures did not work well for taking pictures of moving crowds. Nonetheless, Daguerre managed to capture his first photographic image of a person entirely by accident. The man having his shoes shined near the bend in the road was the only person on the street who stood still long enough to be "seen" by Daguerre's technology. There is power in stillness, perhaps even more so today.