There’s a Vivian Maier-esque story out of San Francisco that’s drawing attention to a newly discovered body of work from a largely unknown photographer.
Back in 2020, David Gallagher, who runs the historical archive known as SF Memory, received a hefty cabinet that was found abandoned in San Francisco’s Mission District. Inside were 920 Kodachrome slides capturing life in the California city throughout the 1960s, with no identifying details about the photographer.
The images document a period of major infrastructural development in the area, including the construction of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system and the subway beneath Market Street, in addition to quieter moments. There are children at play, an officer showing off a chunky, white rabbit, and families swimming in Fleishhacker Pool before the public saltwater complex closed in 1971. Together, the collection creates a distinct photographic tapestry of life in the city during a time of massive change and growth.
Earlier this month, Gallagher spoke to the San Francisco Chronicle about the findings and their mysterious origin, and very quickly, a local named Ted Martin identified the images as those of his late father, James A. Martin. Ted shared that the cabinet was purged from the family’s possessions following James’ death in 2019 along with two others just like. That pair, which presumably holds more photos, is still missing—Gallagher has been feverishly searching for the remaining cabinets and plastering signs throughout the city asking about their whereabouts.
According to his son, James was a teacher and technophile who “loved San Francisco. He lived here his entire life, all 90 years. He was a big sports fan: Giants, Warriors, 49ers. He worked hard. He did his day job and then did night school and other things for extra money.” Those odd gigs included photography for weddings and other local happenings. He developed the images in his home dark room, and apparently, stored the slides in the aforementioned metal cases where they remained hidden.
Now, there’s growing interest in James’ photos and in locating the rest of the collection. While the search continues, Gallagher has been sharing some of the slides on SF Memory, which is definitely worth a look. (via PetaPixel)
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