Snappy-san Returns to San Francisco

People waiting for a bus. B/w photo by Hank Wessel

San Francisco 1977 Henry Wessel; San Francisco MOMA

San Francisco = photographic mecca. Few other cities can claim as deep and profound a well of photographic history, culture, personalities and love for the photographic image as this city.

The people and places are legend. The San Francisco Art Institute. SF MOMA. San Francisco State where Welpott taught. Henry Wessell. Ruth Bernhard. Michael Kenna. Judy Dater. Linda Connor. Group f/64. Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, John Paul Edwards, Sonya Noskowiak, Willard Van Dyke and Edward Weston. There was the Fulton Gallery down on Union street. And the Vision Gallery and the Fraenkel Gallery which exists to this day. San Francisco Camerawork.

Add the hundreds and hundreds and likely thousands of lesser known lights who lived and photographed in San Francisco and the Bay Area and who made contributions to photographic art.

On his return from Massachusetts and heartbreak, Snappy-san landed in San Francisco’s Marina District. He crashed at the apartment of two close friends, “D” and “S.” for possibly two or three months. The apartment was spiffy – roomy, full of light and furnished with fairly nice bookcases, bed, sofas, rattan easy chairs and other items much of it stolen from a Daly City apartment complex.

There were many parties. Here’s a moment from one of them. Wait! I think I can still hear Jean Luc Ponty, or was that Tower of Power playing in the background?

The light in the Marina District was gorgeous. And the opportunities for pictures are plentiful. There were whitewashed buildings, a blinding and blue sea, the Golden Gate Bridge.

In spite of many distractions, Snappy-san became something of a photographer in San Francisco. As these things tend to go, it took quite a while for his images to exhibit any staying power. But San Francisco was a magic place for Snappy-san as it had been for so many others. And soon enough, Snappy-san’s pictures began to show a bit of promise.

b/w portrait of miyako tadenuma

Miyako-san, by Snappy-san.

There are four phases to Snappy-san’s photographic life in San Francisco.
Phase I  The Marina District
Phase II The Sunset District {A Hasselblad, Snappy-San’s First Darkroom, a Nazi mentor}
Phase III Self Education {Harry Callahan, Robert Frank, Andre Kertesz, Sally Mann}
Phase IV City College of San Francisco {Shooting San Francisco’s Cable Car Reconstruction Project}

Galleries that showed photography:
Frankel Gallery
Fulton Gallery
SF Camerawork
Steven Wirtz Gallery

Snappy-san launched two projects in San Francisco. The first was a black and white, medium format documentary project that covered the city’s Cable Car Reconstruction Project in the early 1980’s when the entire system was shut down for two years. The second project was called Light Years — these were a series of diptychs. The image on the left portrayed people whose parents had died. The one on the right was a still life with symbolic objects. Some years later, Snappy-san had of show of this work at Torrefazzione, a cafe in Seattle’s Pioneer Square.

Read the next chapter >> |San Francisco, Unpacked



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