Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in San Francisco

Rivera-the-arsenal

My friend Ben lives in North Beach and told me the other day that Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera lived on Francisco Street near the wharf for a few years, in the 1930’s.

I loved learning this slice of history.

Our conversation triggered some waking deja vu. I spent the summer of 1996 on Francisco Street with Erin Potts, Andrew Bryson and Adam Yauch of Milarepa when we and many others worked on the first Tibetan Freedom Concert at Golden Gate Park that June.

Francisco Street is part of a pocket of San Francisco that mixes together cable cars and the water, North Beach vibes, and the old days of the city as a fishing port. Salt in the air; seagulls; espressos and Marlboros on the streets and roofs. Milarepa was in the upstairs of a two story building owned by architects. I remember so many lunch runs to Taqueria San Jose for amazing, still memorable burritos all summer long.

I loved finding out this week, seventeen years on, that Frida and Diego were there first.

the camera eye

tina modotti image of flag carrying girlHere’s the story of how I got hooked on photography.

My first taste of the alchemy is when I get the prints back from a roll I took on a Pentax K1000, c. 1990. The Pentax (which I still have) is a heavy, solid machine. I save up from a summer job to be able to afford it. It’s mechanical, operated entirely manually. I have to study to learn how to configure film speed and f-stop.

What I see in the first set of prints: depth of field, so clearly better than anything shot in years of disposables, Polaroids and point and shoots. I took a picture of a bicycle, foregrounded. The out-of-focus trees and grass behind it helping create a story.

Material objects transmuted into an artifact (artifice?) that reaches some part of me that responds to art.

Other photos – a very few – I take that summer and fall with the K1000, make me feel the same way.

I’m writing about this because I happened to read a review of a documentary about William Eggleston in the local paper today.

It reminded me of some of the photographers whose work I love. Each of them reflects in their art a personal vision, of the world as inamorata.

Tina Modotti

Robert Capa

Cartier-Bresson

William Eggleston

Olivo Barbieri