Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Flo Fox

I became acquainted with the work of photographer Flo Fox after watching 'Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work'. Joan meets her while delivering a Thanksgiving meal as part of her volunteer work for God's Love, We Deliver. Flo is legally blind and wheelchair bound from symptoms of MS, and started taking photos with an auto-focus camera in the late 70s after failing eyesight made it impossible to continue working as a costume designer.  She has taken, by her estimation, over 100,000 photographs of life in New York since the late 70's. She shows Joan a series of photos she took of the same drugstore for 25 years, documenting the rise in the price of cigarettes. "Check me out," she says, before saying, very slowly and deliberately, "Flo-Fox-Dot-Com."

Her photos are moody, subtle, and always somehow shot through with a pang of raw humor (police blockades creating an accidental Star of David, man in assless leather chaps eating alone at a diner). Also, lots of dick pics, which she's been compiling for her yet-to-be-published tome, 'Dicthology'. She claims every man who has entered her apartment since the mid-70's has posed for the book. 'Atta girl.

In spite of some obsessive internet detective work, I wasn't able to find very many of her photographs online. Her website features a few, but sadly looks like it hasn't been updated since 1999, and hardly does them justice. She has created only one self-published book of her work, 'Asphalt Gardens: 69 Photographs by Flo Fox,' but it is long out-of-print (ps if you can find me one, I'll send you a puppy).

My favorite series is one she self-photographed for Playboy magazine. She was already nearly legally blind when these photos were taken. There's some nudity so I've hidden them after the jump.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

South of Market

Saturday afternoon, Howard Street between 3rd and 4th Streets, 1981
Helen and her husband at the Helen Cafe 486 6th Street, 1980
Hamburger Mary's, 1582 Folsom St. at 12th Street, 1980
Transbay Terminal Newsstand, 1982
Langton between Folsom and Harrison Streets, 1979
Pat serving coffee at the Gordon Cafe on 7th Street at Mission Street, 1980
Skip Wheeler and his wife groom their horses after the Veteran's Day Parade, Folsom at 2nd Street, 1980
Office workers near the periphery of the new convention center, Minna at 4th Street, 1980
Across from the Moscone Center, 3rd at Tehama Street, 1980
Oh hey, look. It's SOMA not looking like ground zero for overfunded tech startups and $6,000 a month metrosexual apartment buildings. I hardly recognize it and yet I still do. It's like looking into the face of a familiar stranger. These photographs were taken around 1980, during and shortly after the construction of the Moscone Center, a massive redevelopment project that displaced residents and businesses in a 10 block radius. The people remaining on the fringes of this invading behemoth were about to have their lives changed by rising rents, gentrification, and an influx of new visitors from all over the country. It's the same old story. A few people win and many, many more lose. Looking at these photographs I am overcome with feelings of nostalgia for a place I never visited and people I never saw. It's a feeling peculiar to seeing old photographs of a dearly loved city.

The SOMA of my teens was still under-developed and strangely vacant. The long, lonely blocks stretched on and on into the abyss of Bayview and Hunter's Point. Many of the residents in these photographs were already long gone, but the crowd-sourced, on-demand cloud-based SaaS platform HQ's hadn't arrived in great numbers yet. It was a neighborhood on the cusp of change. And now that change has come, and people are angry. Do I blame them? It's hard not to look at these photographs of what still looks like an old fashioned, quintessentially Great American City and feel pangs of remorse. What hath we wrought now, with our tone deaf, homogenized luxury high rises and artisanal conflict-free coffee shops?

But isn't it just as pointless and self-indulgent to bemoan the changing face of a metropolis as it is to loathe the changing of seasons? Both are equally inevitable and unstoppable. Yet people throw bricks at Google buses, and the past is still held up as a bastion of now unattainable societal perfection. I keep thinking I've heard this storyline before. Even this blog post has been written before, thousands of times, by people who are smarter, more astute than myself. I don't think I know the answer. How does a city remain resolutely unique and true to itself while having to absorb the collective sameness of an invading population, all drawn to it for the same reason? Can a city remain affordable and welcoming to a working class population even as the tech upperclass eliminates their jobs with ever more automated food/shopping/ridesharing apps? The truth is, I don't know, but I secretly hope we can pull it off. I hope we can retain some of the texture and grit of the San Francisco of Ye Olde Days even as venture capitalists sink 55 million dollars into a startup that inserts gifs into your email. Because they both have their merits.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sunday Sounds: Leon Bridges

Smooth and channeling a classic 60s soul sound? Now this is my kind of summer jam.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Email of the Week

Valid point, but what are tights kick poses? I'm hoping he means this:

In which case, he can tell his gf I approve.

Monday, June 1, 2015

"I'm not doing this to be interesting. I'm doing this to live."

Photo via Vanity Fair

Today is the day we finally meet Caitlyn Jenner (kinda surprised she didn't go for "Kaitlyn" but then again I guess part of this whole transition is to escape the klutches of the Kardashians). She looks radiant, glamorous, confident in her skin. Sure, this photo is probably heavily 'shopped but name one cover photo of a single celebrity between the ages of 6 and 60 that isn't. I've been following this story ever since, well, since Keeping Up with the Kardashians first aired. Yes, I'm one of 'those people' partially responsible for keeping them famous and on the air. I can't defend anything they do from an intellectual standpoint, all I can really say is that my pop culture diet is rich and varied--I like a little bit of junk food just as much as I like a fine dining experience. Part of the appeal is just now inane, how mind-numbingly self absorbed these people are. It's like watching what happens to someone when they absolutely lose all sense of self. A crude experiment. If we were given all that money and fame and paid handsomely to sip frappucinos and ruminate on the merits of laser butt lifts, would we be turn out any better? Maybe not.

But with Caitlyn's transition the story gains a deeper layer--yes these people are ridiculous but they're still people and now they're dealing with something very very real. I can't imagine what it must be like to live every day in the wrong body. And I also can't imagine what it would be like to have a parent transition. It resonates with me very deeply when I hear Khloe say that she feels like Bruce has died. Sure, it's the same person inside, but the person who raised you, who you called "dad" now has the face of a beautiful woman in her 60s. What kind of a mind fuck is that?

To the people who call this a publicity stunt, that's a little bit of a stretch, isn't it? I mean, irreversible gender transition is kind of beyond the pale, even for this family, as a means of securing tabloid space. Regardless of motivation, being open about her transition might even have an altruistic bent. Caitlyn's story is going to help lots of people struggling with similar issues. Hell, it might even save a life or two. And that's no joke.