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About the Photos

Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • UNFAIR TO BABIES, 1936

The Glory of Grain: 1985

The Glory of Grain: 1985

As photographic film continues its inexorable decline to the status of quaint, if not forgotten, technology, I offer this example demonstrating one of its often-derided properties: grain. If you follow home video fora, you'll see many who think it's something to be minimized if not expunged entirely. Of course, grain is why there is an image in the first place. I think the heavy grain structure in this 35mm Kodacolor 1000 negative I shot in 1985 lends a rather painterly quality, especially viewed full-size. The flatironish building in the center is San Francisco's Columbus Tower, aka the Sentinel Building, begun a year before the earthquake and completed a year later in 1907. Since 1970, it's been the headquarters of Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope studio; The Godfather was edited and sound- mixed here. Also, a K-car an M-body Chrysler Fifth Avenue taxi. View full size.

Purple Onion

I just started reading a Smothers Brothers bio today that talks about their early years at the PO. Nice serendipity.

Kougar?

@Minnesotaart: I believe the car behind the VW is a c.1980 Mercury Cougar, not a Chrysler K-Car.

Second oldest bar in San Francisco

Just up the street next door to Winchell's was the second oldest bar in San Francisco. A friend of mine opened the San Francisco Brewing Company the very year this photo was taken. He left the bar in its classic state, but for the addition of the brewing equipment. One of the most unique items of the bar was the tiled area just below the front of the bar. It was said to be used by the men to relieve themselves, so as not to lose their position at the bar. I haven't been there in years, but I do know that the brewery closed some years ago. Great beer was made here, with an amazing barley wine style topping the list.

Here is a link with more information regarding the bar.

Loma Prieta

I was working in the basement studio of the Sentinel Building when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit. It was especially frightening because we were in an area directly under the sidewalk, which had shown signs of being structurally compromised. Before the quake wood support beams had been placed under the sidewalk to prevent it from sagging into the basement space. At the moment of the quake my first fear was that it would crash on our heads. But it didn't and we were able to fumble our way out of the pitch black studio and climb upstairs into the old Captain Video space on the ground floor (still in business in the photo). We couldn't get out of the building under someone from Zoetrope remembered us and came to unlock the door. On the street in Chinatown I could see the blanket of dust kicked up by the quake and looking down Jackson Street I could see cars heading east on both decks of the Bay Bridge. Rumor was the bridge had collapsed, which I couldn't believe, and later we learned the damage was serious but not catastrophic.

The Sentinel Building suffered only minor exterior damage; it was one of the first buildings in S.F. to be built with a steel skeleton.

times have changed

Loved your photo, but in a non-second the exact same effect is done in photoshop by adding noise.
Don't get me wrong the "good old days" were great!

Grain Photos

Today's Panasonic Lumix Digital point and shoot digital pocket cameras have a feature called "film grain." It captures images in b&w, great contrast, with a hint of grain. It's a lot of fun. (and you do not have to spend precious time playing around with Photoshop!)

Grainy Granada

My father in law had a Mercury Monarch that was the most problematic vehicle that he ever owned. He bought it new and sold it about 7 or 8 months later.

Wild in the Streets

This is the same angle as the cover photo of the Circle Jerks' "Wild in the Streets"

Milk Bottle

Hey, isn't that a milk bottle on the hotel window ledge?

Oh, wait, I think it's about 40 years too late to see that.

Thanks, tterrace, for all of your evocative photos and for your detailed commentary that accompanies them.

The Streets

I half expect Karl Malden and Michael Douglas to pop out from behind one of those parked cars.

K-Car

When I read your original caption (with K-Car) I thought that you were referring to the car behind the VW on the left (with the chrome side mirror) - I think it just might be a K-Car!

Chrysler's Savior(s)

Matt Fuller: "Calling that clumsy rear-drive Chrysler LeBaron a "K-Car" serves only to besmirch the name of the cars that truly saved the Chrysler Corporation from oblivion."

IMHO, it was the US Government and Mitsubishi Motors that saved Chrysler's bacon at that time. Of which neither were bad things in and of themselves. But, I found it epically ironic then that Lee Iococca was bashing Japanese imports when it was the Japanese that pretty much enabled him to remain employed.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Brandy Ho's?

Behind Me Bings" (it is still there) with entrances on both Columbus and Pacific is Brandy Ho's some of the best food in Chinatown. If you dine alone (can you spell business trip?) they will seat you at the "lunch counter" with all of the cooks and huge woks on the otherside of the counter the grill in a diner. The "show" is as good as the food.

The Winchel's Donut is long gone, replaced by a Happy Donut. Wonder if their whole wheat donut is as good as Winchel's, if it has the same quality of grain?

Thanks TTerance.. great shot, great memories, great grain.

San Fran Grain

Before I read your remark, I thought this was about Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco treat.

The oldster's grain

is the youngster's pixel.

And I do wonder whether my digicam, being a computer at heart, will have the service life of my analog SLR. We have all read how easy it is for manufacturers to program some planned obsolescence into anything digital.

Mercedes or Granada?

Remember those ads comparing the two?

Thank you

Thank you, tterrace, for all you've posted over the last several years. Wish you'd post more. I enjoy all of them, and your descriptions!

Undiplomatic

Calling that clumsy rear-drive Chrysler LeBaron a "K-Car" serves only to besmirch the name of the cars that truly saved the Chrysler Corporation from oblivion.

[Actually, it's an M-body Chrysler Fifth Avenue. I've corrected my caption. - tterrace]

Lonestar: The 2.6 Liter Mitsubishi engine w/Mikuni Carb that was a low percentage option on some K-Cars and was extremely problematic due to it's hydraulically tensioned and failure prone timing chain and chain driven balance shaft system.
I made a lot of money servicing the 2.6L engines that lived to see a replacement chain kit. I also put a boatload of choke pull-offs in those Mikuni carbs. Made in Japan but fixed in the USA.

Grain

If Ansel Adams had only digital, I don't know that his name would be a household word today.

The Purple Onion

Sharp-eyed Shorpyites will notice on the left the sign for the famous Purple Onion club. Comedy and music greats of the 50s and 60s had their starts or practiced their craft here, such as Bob Newhart, Phyllis Diller, the Smothers Brothers, and of course, Lenny Bruce. As a college student in the City in the 70s I went there once, but more often had coffee and donuts at the Winchells across the street...when my monthly GI Bill check arrived.

To this day, I still want to launch a paper airplane from the top of the Transamerica Building.

 
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