Souls of San Francisco, September 2013
Photographer Garry Bowden zig-zags across the City, taking photos of the diverse population that makes up San Francisco. He conducts a small interview with every person he shoots, and is currently in the works to produce a second book of San Franciscans' photos and stories; take a peek at the Kickstarter page, which is up through October 23rd.
Check out 10 people from "Souls of San Francisco":
"Hi! Would you mind if I take your picture?"
"Sure! My name's Grace. I live in the senior center up on Fillmore. I'm a senior citizen. I'm 72 years old. I've lived here since 1972 and I stayed until 1976 when I moved to Richmond because I didn't want to raise my kids in the projects, but that was before there were all the drugs and foolishness going on out there. Me...I just liked to work, go to church, and raise my kids but a lot of people out there were into that other stuff."
"How many kids do you have?"
"6, I raised 5 of them. 1 was kidnapped when he was 6 months old. His father took him and told him a bunch of lies. He told him that he was found on a doorstep. He didn't find out about me till he was 23 years old. Then he came out and met me at the train station. I remember he said he was going to be wearing a Bart Simpson t-shirt, but then it was too cold and everyone had jackets on. But I just went on up to the person I thought looked like my kin and asked, "Are you wearing a Bart Simpson t-shirt?" and he gave me a big hug and said, "You're my mama!"
"That's a great story."
"That's San Francisco, when I was back in Lufkin, Texas, that's where I'm from, I told people I wanted to go to San Francisco. All that was there for me in Texas was picking cotton, the KKK and people telling me I wasn't shit. They told me if I tried to leave I'd end up dead on the street. But you know what I told them?"
"Dead is dead, but before I die I'm going to see San Francisco!"
"I love that hat! Mind if I take your picture?"
"I don't mind."
"Thank you so much, I appreciate you taking the time to stop."
"I'm 91 years old, I'm not afraid to talk to anybody."
"You see very healthy and with it, what's your secret?"
"I don't eat shit. Meat, chicken, fish, none of it. I'm not an athlete or anything though. I'm actually a troublemaker, I've been arrested 6 times."
"Protesting. Last time was when Dick Cheney came to town, I was there protesting and they arrested me instead of him. Can you believe that?"
"I can actually. What brought you to San Francisco?"
"I came here because I knew it was where I wanted to die."
"Do you want to die?"
"I'm ready for it. The older you get the more ready for it you are. I've been waiting 11 years."
"So you were ready at 80? You've never been afraid of death? That seems to be a lot of people's greatest fear."
"The greatest fear is fear. Death is just a gateway to higher consciousness. The fear comes from religions. They try to indoctrinate you with all this crap to make you scared and coming back to them. I only made it past the 8th grade but I know how to think for myself. The secret is to question things."
"I just moved here from Maui to live the California dream we've all heard of."
"Do you believe in life after death?"
"Definitely. My mother just passed and she's been coming to me in dreams that were too real to just be dreams."
"You look so peaceful, what's your secret?"
"I try to spend a lot time in nature and keep a consistent yoga practice. It keeps me balanced."
"You look awesome."
"Do you live in this neighborhood?"
"Yeah, I moved here from Nicaragua when I was 14 and have been here my whole life."
"Has the neighborhood changed much since you've been here?"
"Oh yeah, in 1972 the milkman would bring milk in glass bottles to your doorstep and leave them. And no one would touch them. Now...forget about it. People will kill you here on the street for $5. Sometimes they think you have something and they kill you, and then they realize you have nothing."
"Why do you think everything changed?"
"Drugs. It's drugs. Too much drugs. But what are you gonna do? Time changes things. Some people say, 'The world...the world has changed.' The world hasn't changed. People's attitude has changed."
"I like your style."
"I like yours."
"Can I sit down with you for a minute?
"Are you a writer?"
"No, I'm an amateur physicist."
"Got any good stories?"
"So I'm at my physics study group at my bodega, and I'm tripping on molly, and this guy walks in, and he looks exactly like Maude, from Harold and Maude, and it's just one of those silver bullet moments where you realize you're instantly in love. Like instantly. And I just jumped on him, and I didn't stop talking till like 6 in the morning. Then we parted ways.
The next morning he sends me this video, it's called Paperman. It won an Oscar for like, best short. And the plot of that is there's this guy. And he runs into this girl on the subway, and she gets her lipstick on a piece of paper. Then he goes to work and they miss each other, when he gets there she's in the building across from him and he makes hundreds of paper airplanes trying to get her attention. And it doesn't work. But then all these paper airplanes, in this Disney cinematic way, whirl him up and take him to her.
So my guy lives in this mansion on Alamo Square. So I spent like the whole week making these papers airplanes for him. Like thousands of them, like stealing paper reams from work and making paper airplanes. I ask my friends to help me, so me and thirty other people cover this mansion. Fucking cover it.
He comes home and says, 'Nobody's ever done this for me before. I'm totally in love with you.'
So I win his heart...or so I think, because that's the end of it and he never texts me again. Then when I get drunk enough to text him to asks 'What gives?' he texts back saying, 'I'm sorry but my heart belongs to someone else.'
But then, 5 days pass and texts me again saying he made a mistake and he wants to be with me. So I don't know if that's a good story yet. I don't think the arc is complete.
So you know, I put myself out there. And now I'm invited back in, but I'm too scared to go there again because it failed...but it kinda succeeded. I don't know."
It's challenging to communicate it Chinatown because of the language barrier, but sometimes you can share a deep moment of silence.
"Is there a story behind it?"
"Nah, just doin it for fun."
"Well do you know any good jokes?"
"No, but I know some bad ones."
"Let's hear one."