Spots Unknown

Zoom Around a Leveled San Francisco

Leveled San Francisco, 1906

I just spent way too much time immersed in this post-earthquake-and-fire aerial photo of SF. You will too.

Photographed by George R. Lawrence with a kite a few weeks after the disaster:

It is a 160-degree panorama from a kite taken 2000 feet (600 m) in the air above the San Francisco Bay that showed the entire city on a single 17-by-48-inch contact print made from a single piece of film. Each print sold for $125 and Lawrence made at least $15,000 in sales from this one photograph. The camera used in this photograph weighed 49 pounds (22 kg) and used a celluloid-film plate.

This is #cappstreet on Instagram

Capp Street, San Francisco, on Instagram

Coming to Instagram as late as I have, I was shocked to find that there was zero Capp Street coverage. No longer!

There are reasons for healthy fear of Capp, but there is also beauty if you bother to look. So come on, have a look. And post pics. I'll repost nice ones @SpotsUnknown.

Happy Quake Day: The Mint

Is that guy in the bowler hat checking his iPhone?

Image courtesy US Library of Congress.

Happy ’06 Earthquake Day: Stanford

This statue on the Stanford University campus just couldn't take it any more.

Image courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey Photographic Library.

Love Tap

Love Tap, San Francisco

I hit you because I love you. Will you be my Valentine?

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Coit & Columbus

Columbus & Coit, San Francisco

I managed to find my way to the 34th floor of the Transamerica Building on Saturday. This was my first time inside. I was doubly lucky because of how nice of a day it was. Click to expand.

In a Van Down By Ocean Beach

Vans Down By Ocean Beach: San Francisco

Pole aerial shot of Volkswagen van owners' gathering. Photo by Flickr user KAP Cris.

Nice Try, Teddy

Nice Try, Teddy; San Francisco

I think we've all been tempted to go over the wall at some point by the apparent harmlessness of barbed wire. Learn from this Teddy Bear's mistakes and save yourself some grief. (Then again, at least he died yearning for freedom.)

(Spotted on Capp Street near 17th.)

“The City is My Sweetheart”

The city is my Sweetheart Tattoo, San Francisco
Image by Jonathan Moore

From the Spots Unknown Flickr pool.

Moustache Magic

Magic of the Moustache, San Francisco

Mr. Magic performs on the street in Fisherman's Wharf. To be honest, even though he's pretty good with the metal rings in his hands, the rings around his eyes and on his upper lip had me more mezmerized.

Name That Spot

Name That Spot, San Francisco

Where are these two be-Stetsoned gentlemen located? In the comments.

The Answer to Betty White Fatigue

The Answer to Betty White Fatigue - Phyllis Diller as Fast Pass Spokesperson! - San Francisco

While we were at a pawn shop on Mission Street, Steve spotted this. (What's with the two jumping fishes?)

MUNI should totally bring back Phyllis Diller for the Fast Pass! At 93, she's got 5 years on Betty White. I even did their graphic design work for them:

Phyllis Diller on the Clipper Card, San Francisco

Sally Rand in 1933: Unfair to Nudism! (NSFW)

Last week I posted some photos by Seymour Snaer from 1939, a couple of which were of Sally Rand's Nude Ranch from the Golden Gate International Exposition that took place on Treasure Island. Rand is worth a closer look, if you know what I mean. Take a peep after the jump...

Photos of San Francisco in 1939

San Francisco 1939 by Seymour Snaer, cover image

1939 was a big year for San Francisco, during which it attempted to convince the world that it had fully recovered from the catastrophes of 1906 and was once again a city to be reckoned with. Completion of the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge was punctuated with the International Exhibition on Treasure Island.

For one photographer/photojournalist, that year left a lasting impression.

The photographer's name is Seymour Snaer, and the images were published in 1980 in a book titled, San Francisco 1939: An Intimate Photographic Portrait. Snaer had over 100 rolls of film from that one year, so publisher Bill Owens reprinted select shots from negatives, rescuing them from the bad cropping done by newspapers like the Examiner, who Snaer had worked for.

I've Googled around and not found much mention of the man, nor have I seen any of his images. The (used) book is listed on some sites, but none even have the cover image (above).

I'm including just some of the photos (in low-res format taken with my camera), and the captions that go with them. Additionally, I've excerpted some text from the body of the book. The writing has a raw feel to it; you can tell it was written by someone who doesn't write, but really has something to say.

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Some of the highlights: Real fishermen using nets in the Bay; Belt and Southern Pacific trains; view from Twin Peaks; Sally Rand's Nude Ranch (NSFW); ski jumping on Treasure Island; auto polo.

Tip of the hat to Jonathan at Viracocha for gifting the book to me (that was a very kind way to get me to stop bugging you about your fantastic shop).

The above image is from the cover, portraying still and movie photographers capturing President Franklin Roosevelt's motorcade who came to see the Expo before it opened, in '38. Snaer writes:

Two of the guys in the bunch were very famous newsreel cameramen in the '30s, Joe Rucker and Frank Vail. They used hand-crank cameras ... I had big bulbs and all of a sudden - a bulb exploded! Secret Servicemen ran all over the place. It really embarrassed me. [p. 24]

The following images and text are all directly from the book. (Keep in mind that when he says "today," Snaer means 1980.)

Note: I'm pretty sure the copyright, originally reserved by Snaer himself, isn't being actively enforced, but in case it is, I'm only posting low-res images, and will gladly remove them if a rights-holder contacts me. Check out the photos/text after the jump...

Sweet Vintage Street Sweeper, circa 1950

Vintage Street Sweeper, San Francisco

This beauty of a machine is shown cleaning the street at Dolores Park, which apparently even back then was regularly trashed by hordes of Missionites. (If anyone knows the origins of this photograph please drop it in the comments so I can properly attribute. I found it here.)

You can buy a vintage ad for the Austin-Western "Model 40" on eBay (and, really, why not?):

Vintage Street Sweeper Ad, 1950

Here's the ad copy:

On any street, there are many things the operator of a sweeper has to watch, and with the model "40" he sees them all. Only with this sweeper does he have unobstructed view of everything around him. There are no "blind" spots for the man behind the wheel of a model "40."

Children don't always watch where they're going. Thanks to front steer and rear-mounted hopper, the model "40" operator can do the watching for them, because he sits in the natural place "up front" where he can see what's going on.

And there's another important angle... Not only can he operate Model "40" safely but efficiently as well, because it's the only sweeper with gutter brooms visible at all times.

Yes, for efficiency's sake as well as safety's sake... GET A MODEL "40."

Let the "hipster-proof" jokes commence...

Full Story Behind Cliff House “Lightning” Photograph

Cliff House "Lighting" Photograph, San Francisco

It's one of the most famous San Francisco images, seen on postcards galore. I never realized what an epic story is attached to it and the photographer who is believed to have shot it. (Also, it's not lightning, nor a storm, as is commonly held.)

According to this Cliff House book project site, on the back of the original print is the following inscription (neither dated nor verified):

A Japanese boy, noticing the approach of lightning and thunder storm, took the last car for the Cliff House at 10:30 p.m.

The night was dark. He took up his position with his camera on the beach, and patiently waiting until 2 o'clock a.m., was able by leaving his camera open to obtain this picture, the "flashlight" being Nature's own--the bright strokes of lightning at the moment. The patience of the "Oriental," together with his keen preception of the opportunity, give us this photographic rarity, thunder storms and lightning being a rare occurance in the "glorious climate of California." --Copyrighted.

Cliff House "Lighting" Photo, San Francisco

There's more. The "Alamo Square Neighborhood Association Newsletter" from February 2000 identifies (via his son, "Ted") the Japanese boy as Tsunekichi Imai.

Cliff House "Lighting" Photo, San Franciscod
Scan courtesy of Winston Montgomery

The following story is included in a detailed account of Imai's life:

Tsunekichi Imai was working in his Polk Street studio when the 1906 earthquake struck, and he described to his family how the pictures hanging from his shop walls shook and gyrated wildly, many tumbling to the ground. In the days that followed, the rapidly spreading fire which followed the quake overwhelmed firefighters and threatened to destroy the entire city. To stop the fire by depriving it of fuel, officials decided to create a firebreak by dynamiting a swath of buildings east of Van Ness Avenue. The Imai studio was located in one of these buildings.

The structures to be exploded were evacuated hurriedly and Tsunekichi Imai thought that all his equipment and furniture had been lost. Someone suggested that he go up to Lafayette Park at Washington and Laguna streets, and there he discovered stacks of personal possessions and household furnishings covered by tarpaulins that firemen and other volunteers must have rescued from the doomed buildings. He found most of the things from his shop piled together and even labeled with his name. Ironically many of the photographs and other personal affects that survived the earthquake and fire were lost during the period that the Imai family was interned during W.W. II at Camp Topaz in Utah.

Tsunekichi Imai took a number of photographs in the earthquake’s aftermath, the most notable, according to his son, Ted, showed a man trapped on the upper balcony of a burning building pleading for help as the flames engulfed him. The picture was taken just as soldiers on the ground shot the man with their rifles to put him out of his misery. Ted says his father was fearful of the possible legal implications of taking this photo or even witnessing this event, and eventually destroyed it.

Read the whole thing.

Tons more photos of Cliff House here.

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Tilted and Shifted

Tilted and Shifted, San Francisco

I'm still a big sucker for this effect, when it's well-done. These shots of Union Square were created to promote an iPhone app.

Sun Strider

Sun Strider, San Francisco

From the Spots Unknown Flickr pool.

BART Ad Oozing

BART Ad Oozing, San Francisco

Mmmm...

Three Rusted Pipes

Three Rusted Pipes, San Francisco

These fellas are pretty dignified, no?