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High-Contrast History 

Wednesday, Aug 10 2011
We love to educate friends who’ve recently moved to San Francisco, and among the best ways to do this is taking them to Sutro Heights and the ruins of Sutro Baths, both of which are just north of Ocean Beach. There we can show off all we know about the man for which they’re named — Adolph Sutro, a Prussian immigrant and onetime S.F. mayor who made a fortune in silver mining in the late 19th century and who also owned and developed much of the city’s western region. (Back then it was mostly sand dunes referred to as the “outside lands.”) We can point to the former site of his mansion as well as the rock walls overlooking the Pacific where he erected replicas of some of Europe’s best-known sculptures. Walking across the Great Highway, we can identify the remains of the baths, which included several pools of varying temperatures as well as slides, dives, and acrobatic apparatus, not to mention cultural and artistic exhibits from around the world. Sutro also created a museum, a library, and a number of parks. Photographer Don Ross is also fascinated by Sutro and his remnants. In “Sutro San Francisco: The ‘Outside Lands’ a Century Apart,” he juxtaposes black-and-white photos from a 1910 survey of Sutro’s estate with his own shots of the same areas. He uses a 4-by-5-inch color camera, whose prints underscore the differences between today and what was (or wasn’t) there before. Running concurrently is “Fraction: 3 Years in the Making,” an exhibit of photos selected from the past 28 issues of Fraction Magazine.
Aug. 11-Sept. 15, 2011

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Keith Bowers

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