SOUTH OF MARKET 1978-1986
These photographs were taken at the cusp of a remarkable transformation. Part of the South of Market District of San Francisco had been altered structurally: 5000 residents and 700 hundred businesses were displaced to make room for a new convention center. An even larger part of the transformation of South of Market would be the restructuring of the use of existing space. As light industry moved out, artists moved into the warehouses. As families with children migrated to the suburbs, the gay community moved into the wood framed apartments that lined the alleyways. Urban flight in the 1950s was in motion across the country. In response to this exodus redevelopment projects became a common sight in abandoned and blighted inner city neighborhoods during the 1960s and 1970s.
I moved to the South of Market in 1978, as the first posts were being poured for San Francisco’s redevelopment project now known as the Moscone Center. I began to ask who had lived and worked in this ten-block area that had been clear cut and was now a massive hole in the ground? How would this new development affect the lives of my neighbors who had lived South of Market for many years? These photographs and the accompanying interviews were my way of giving a voice to those who remained at the edges of the site, but were about to be immeasurably impacted by rising rents brought on by the arrival of the conventioneers.
Looking out on the city more than 35 years later, the multiple forces that shape urban ecology can be clearly traced. The impact of the 1991 earthquake, the dotcom boom, bust and rebirth as well as revised approaches to urban planning may have slowed the original intentions of the “ City Fathers” of the 1950s, but as the South of Market skyline begins to bulge with new buildings it is clear that the final phase of the redevelopment plan is firmly in place. Few of the earlier renters still live in SoMa. A formerly working class neighborhood is now home to some of the wealthiest San Franciscans.
There is a great economic vitality here that was not present in the waning days of industrialism. The tech industry is defining our sense of place while making it a challenge for those whose income is not linked to the new paradigm. As I revisit this neighborhood with my camera, I can see the future I had only vaguely imagined in the 1980s. Though I am occasionally delighted and often stunned, I acknowledge that cities change. These recent photographs begin to examine, and perhaps question, the form that this change is taking.
NEW YORK CITY: 1984-1987
Throughout the 1980’s I made many trips to New York City. Having grown upon a tidy street in the young suburbs of Los Angeles, I longed for the unexpected, haphazard encounters Manhattan had to offer.
I traveled with my twin lens Rollieflex, a camera that allowed me to make photographs unannounced. I spent my days trolling the streets, delighting in the close contact I had with strangers. I brought these stolen observations back to California, printed them and put them in a box on the shelf.
Twenty-five years later, as I revisit these images, I see that they allow me to travel once again, now back to another era. These split seconds silently frame my view of the past, a past full of incidental moments that combined together form a very personal record of a shared memory.
More images from this series can be seen upon request.
Men in starched uniforms sprint to attention at the slightest hint of need, a fleeting glance of interest. Doors swing open effortlessly in anticipation of my arrival. Would I like to enter this hardware store, that workout studio, this private automobile?
As dark falls in the neighborhoods, guards chat among themselves, circling coal fires to warm their hands. On bone chill nights they sit in thin wooden sheds with small heaters glowing orange. From my upstairs bedroom, at one a.m., I hear a whistle, then another and another, as a message is passed from man to man. “ We are here, we are here, we are here.”
In the morning the day guard arrives to the house on his bicycle and brushes his teeth with water from the garden hose. A cup of hot tea, the newspaper near by, he settles in. He has been a guard at this address for 29 years and before him, his father worked for the same family. Soon this home will be demolished and replaced with a five-story condominium. Will a video camera be hooked to the front gate to keep watch?
These photographs, made in and around New Delhi, are an investigation into a place where the past collides with the future daily. As globalized commerce and technology enter the equation, a long established workforce will be endangered. The guards represent only one of many intricate social systems that are being dismantled to make room for the new economy.
More images from this series can be seen upon request.
BEIJING AND ZHENGZHOU
In the 2010 book, Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory, Peter Hessler states that in the past two decades nearly ten percent of the nation’s billion-plus people have moved from rural areas to cities and factory zones. My photographs of the people behind these numbers give a face to the statistical tsunami pouring into the daily press. By juxtaposing images of middle-aged men and women, children of the 1960-1970 Cultural Revolution, with the newly minted youth culture, we can better sense the dramatic shift that is underway. In this selection I have focused on images of women. More chapters are in the making.
The moment when strangers on the street are willing to proudly offer themselves to the lens of a foreigner may not last long. At what point with the transformation of the culture be so complete we will no longer recognize the concept of foreign?