The Bold Italic recently published this photo essay with pictures of San Francisco photo-shopped, free of cars and people.
The essay is pretty, but I found it incredibly sad. It is perhaps the perfect conceit for this era in San Francisco, when the City can seem more a sterile backdrop for young, monied newcomers than an actual collection of communities. It’s San Francisco as your desktop wallpaper. San Francisco as seen from the Marin Headlands, or as seen from a drone. San Francisco as depicted in infographics and sweet logos with clean lines, San Francisco with neighborhoods efficiently renamed. But rarely the City as its people. We need a Humans of SF. I’m not sure if the artist put these photos together as this sort of a commentary, but it works as such.
The images are so lonely. They remind me of the 1959 film On the Beach, about sailors stuck on a submarine after a nuclear war. Radioactivity is sweeping over the world, and the cities are being emptied one by one.
There’s one sailor from San Francsco, and when the submarine reaches the Bay, he insists on going ashore to his beautiful city even though it means death. Looking at the photo essay, I feel just a little like that sailor.