Thursday, August 20, 2009

$1 San Francisco Street Portraits Project-Part. 1

The idea is not original, but I loved the idea enough to give it a go myself. The idea: hit the streets with a camera and a pad of paper and offer people $1 in return for their portrait and a bit about them. The result was a pieced together collage of people in the city—a sample of its demographic. Granted, a test group of ten or twelve won’t give us the best data. But it’s more of an art project than it is ethnographic research.

For this set, we traveled by bike through Hayes Valley, around Civic Center, Tenderloin, Chinatown, North Beach and down to the Embarcadero and interviewed roughly 20 people. Over the 2-3 hour excursion we had a lot of people tell us they didn’t want their photo taken (some rather adamantly). But warmth overcame skepticism for most. Special thanks to Sara Hart Weihmann for her note taking and assistance.
SF Weekly Article

Here are our findings.

Name: Scotty

Age: 18

Home: The Richmond, SF

Background: A recent transplant from South East Illinois, Scotty moved here for an internship at a hair salon called Secret Agent. He said he’s still dealing with the culture shock of moving to the big city.

Quote: “This place is pretty intense.”

Response to the $1: Thanked us and took it.

Name: Roger Garrison

Age: 44

Home: Nob Hill, SF

Background: A San Diego native, Roger only moved here 6 months ago. He was on a break from work when we approached, smoking a cigarette and clad in a white apron and screaming tie. Roger quickly unloaded his life details.

Roger’s a writer working as a waiter at Boulevard. Working on his second go at a novel, Roger has been attending a variety of writing groups and getting a good response. The novel titled Sam found and Tom is the story of an orphan boy and a funeral director who just buried his parents.

Quote: “The novel has WTF moments at every flip of the page.”

Response to the $1: Refusal at first, then took it when we suggested he donate to someone else.

Name: Ray

Age: “old”

Home: Lafayette, CA

Background: We found Ray in a motorcycle unit directing traffic for the filming of “Trauma.” He wore an ear-to-ear grin, tall black motorcycle boots and a tattered holster, and became surprisingly serious when I pointed my camera in his direction. Ray said that commuting to San Francisco everyday was just part of the job and enjoyed that his unit was assigned all over the city.

Quote: Ray liked to be vague about the details. When asked how long he had been a police officer, he responded: “A really long time.”

Response to the $1: We didn’t even offer.

Name: Henri Delafosse

Age: 30

Home: Russian Hill

Background: Born in LA, Henri has lived in San Francisco for 5 years as an artist. In his sharp garb, Henri’s raspy beard contrasted with his dapper wool hat, pinstriped shirt and baggy pants. After a reluctant beginning Henri pulled several of his paintings out of his bag and excitedly explain his painting techniques.

Quote: “I have a art show next week, check out my”

Response to the $1: Thanked us with a smile. Said he could use it.

Name: Gracie

Age: 19

Home: Alameda, CA

Background: Gracie commutes to the city every day to attend Zenzi’s Cosmetology Center in Hayes Valley. She described herself as a “big baby” when we asked for her age.

Quote: “I don’t like to get my photo taken, I look meeeehh.”

Response to the $1: Declined.

Name: Erin

Age: 31

Home: Pacific Heights

Background: We found Erin waiting next to a “Back in 10min” sticky note stuck to a shop window. Her blue and silver biking shoes and blue outfit matched her blue bike locked-up near by. Erin said she had just returned from a year traveling abroad, touring New Zealand, and England. After quitting a corporate insurance gig, she said she’s now searching for a job, “something to feed the soul,” in the non-profit or biotech industries.

Quote: “You aren’t gonna cut me from the photo selection are you? Cause I would be distraught if you did.”

Response to the $1: Took it after we told her to find someone that needs it. Smiling, she turned to the shop attendant opening the door and said, “Now I gotta find someone to give a dollar to.”

Name: David Cook

Age: 50’s

Home: Somewhere on Hayes and Gough, SF

Background: David sat on a milk crate reading a worn book. His cigarette-stained beard barely hid his smile and earnest demeanor. A hand-made sign hung on the cyclone fence behind him that said, “I’d rather be a poor clown than a rich thief so I’ve gone fish’in.”

Quote: “I live here, I’ve got permission and nobody gets robbed on this street.”

Response to the $1: Declined.

Name: Chow

Age: 84

Home: Chinatown, San Francisco born and raised

Background: Retired for 20 years now, Chow had worked as a Seaman all his life. He has a wife, kids and grandchildren here in the city. We spotted Chow with the sun on his face leaning against a parking meter with his lunch leftovers. When we asked him if he would like to participate he exclaimed “Me!”

Quote: “Living on borrowed time.”

Response to the $1: Declined

Name: Anne

Age: 25

Home: Denmark

Background: We found Anne wandering around North Beach. She’s a well-traveled linguistics student at Berkeley taking summer courses and said she was surprised by the “American” attitude: “They think they can do whatever they want,” she said. In Scandinavia they’re taught to be less outgoing.

Quote: San Francisco is the, “Best culture shock I’ve ever experienced.”

Response to the $1: Surprise, followed by sheepish acceptance.

Name: Ana

Age: 22

Home: Amsterdam

Background: We found Ana standing with her family outside of a sushi joint on Powell and O’Farrell. She told us she was on the last day of a two-week whirlwind tour of the US during which she had visited L.A, Las Vegas and a variety of other locations.

Quote: At the prompting of her family, Ana explained: “They want to take my picture.”

Response to the $1: Said “Not necessary.” Then she took it.

Expect more soon.....

1 comment:

Cao said...

This project is money. I am digging it bro! I can't wait to see next edition!

Hey have you seen the guy holding a "Hugs $2" sign right next to the "Free Hugs" guy?