I think my landscape photographer instincts went to work on this photograph, despite its thoroughly urban subject. But imagine a valley floor, a vertical granite cliff, peaks beyond, and a cloud floating past and I think you might see the analogy. But this is a distinctly San Francisco street/architecture photograph.
I was on foot in The City, spending the better part of a day wandering around in an area bounded by the Embarcadero and the Bay, Market street more or less, and Fourth Street. I was headed south on a less crowded street, traveling more or less toward the newly remodeled SFMOMA (museum of modern art). I had been looking a the tall building on the right and the bit of the new portion of the museum poking out to its left when the solitary cloud appeared from behind the building and began to move from right to left. Having very little time to contemplate, I framed up this vertical composition and made the photograph “street” style, using the prime lens already on the camera and simply shooting handheld
I have a series of photographs, a series that contains only a few images, that I call “imaginary landscapes” — photographs that do not attempt to be objectively real depictions (not that photographs can truly succeed at such a thing) but instead go for what I might term a subjective reality. This photograph is perhaps the urban equivalent to those. An “urban imaginary landscape” perhaps?
The source image came from a recent visit to San Francisco, when I was in a location where I could look directly toward the outer shells of a number of very tall buildings. Because the weather was overcast, the light was muted and it made its way into shadowed areas that might otherwise be very dark. This produced a source image that allowed me a great deal of leeway for interpretation in post.
Benches and a balcony, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
There is a small thread in my photograph of the interior spaces of buildings that looks through gauzy, diffused curtains, blinds, and scrims toward the world outside. For example, I have several in his line that I made at the Getty Museum in Southern California, and some things photographed in museums in New York that go in a similar direction. I made this photograph at the new SFMOMA museum in San Francisco during a members’ preview before the official opening last week.
I love the newly expanded and remodeled museum. One writer commented on the way that the new facility opens to the City. (The former building, as good as it was, was mostly closed off from San Francisco, with few places where the interior space opened to views of the surrounding area.) Now the new “back side” of the museum opens straight out over and into the urban environment, and there is quite a bit to see there — and the design creates a stronger link to this city. In this photograph, which was initially “about” the lines of the buildings in the upper part of the frame, the shapes and tones of the two foreground benches are beginning to interest me more.
Urban landscape and an inflatable object, San Francisco
I recently read an interview with one artist whose work is on exhibit at SFMOMA, and he commented that despite what people may read into the work, it is largely all about the composition and juxtaposition of elements. If you want to read something into this, you are welcome to do so — and, in fact, there might be something there that I have not described or which I don’t see or admit to seeing.
But composition and juxtaposition did interest me. The rounded object at lower right doesn’t really fit the rest of the surrounding environment, or does it? That’s all I’m going to say…
The Flag Makers building behind a couple sitting on a bench at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Today (Saturday, May 14, 2016, as I write this) marks the re-opening of the newly renovated and expanded San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, or SFMOMA. As members we got an early look about a week ago, and we spent the better part of a day exploring the place. We like it! A lot. There are quite a few things I could write about — the architecture, the expanded space inside, the collections, the photographs — but all I’ll write for now is that I agree with one architecture critic who pointed out that where the old museum felt walled off from San Francisco the new version connects directly with the surrounding neighborhood, with many windows and open balconies providing plenty of opportunities to see and interact the urban San Francisco landscape. You could have a bit of fun thinking carefully about all of the lines and angles in this scene and what might explain them…
These photographs of SFMOMA are also some of the first I’ve made using a new camera from Fujifilm, the X-Pro2, about which I’ll likely have a lot more to say in the future. It is a rangefinder-style interchangeable lens mirrorless body with a hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder system that mostly succeeds in providing a sort of best of both worlds design. I like it for this kind of photography because the camera not only produced excellent image quality (with its 24MP sensor and fine Fujifilm lenses), but it is also small and fairly unobtrusive.
A couple sitting on a bench outside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
A couple of years ago, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) closed for work on a major expansion and remodeling project. We have been members for some time, and I recall squeezing in one last visit before the long closure — viewing favorite works and making photographs inside the place. The big news is that the remodel is virtually finished now, and the museum officially reopens very soon, on May 14. But an opening like this doesn’t take place all at once. There is a sort of run-up to the actual event that brings people into the new facility over a period of time. As members, it was our turn (along with thousands of others) to get a preview this week.
I may have more to say about the museum in the future, but for now I’ll just say that I like it a lot — both the work exhibited (not that we saw all of it in one day!) and the building itself. There are a number of wonderful touches — many visual connections to the surrounding city (where the previous facility felt more walled off from San Francisco), lots of light, a brilliant system of stairways and spaces along the eastern side, and more. Oddly, almost none of that is in this first photograph I made at the new SFMOMA, which depicts an almost deserted new entrance and seems to show more of the surrounding city environment than the museum itself. More to come eventually…
Finally. A photograph that is not Death Valley. Don’t worry, there are still more Death Valley photographs, and this one did come from the same trip. On our return from Death Valley we swung through the LA Basin to visit our daughter and son-in-law, replacing natural pleasures with the distinctly urban experiences of Los Angeles. On April 1 we went to Venice Beach to visit the G2 Gallery, where photographer friends exhibit from time to time. (We enjoyed the gallery quite a bit — some lovely photographs by Clyde Butcher and Jack Dykinga were featured that week.)
Out of the gallery and on the street I had an opportunity to play with a new camera, my Fujifilm X-Pro2, which had arrived shortly before we left for Death Valley. The street being the perfect place for such a camera, I pulled it out and made a few photographs. Initially I expected that this would be a color photograph, but as I worked on it in post I began to feel that it had potential in black and white.