About the Author: Troy Holden walks the streets of San Francisco with a camera. His snapshots focus on a dream metropolis - in all of it's splendor, filth, and variety. His personal blog can be found at troyholden.com and can be contacted at @troyholden.
In 1967, the late San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen wrote:
“Whenever I feel I’m getting out of touch with the City, I take a long walk along Market Street.
A few minutes on Market will convince anybody, even the oldest native, that he’ll never truly get to know San Francisco. It’s the street of broken dreams, of frozen screams, of strangers rubbing elbows.
In many ways Market is the most sophisticated street in town, if by sophistication you mean weary, worldly, and aloof. Its warmth is its coldness: you’re alone, but so is everybody else. In a city that in too many ways is like a small town, it is blessedly impersonal.
Market is teeming with San Franciscans you’ll never get to know. It is quite clear that they don’t want to know you, either. Nothing is given, nothing is expected— a truly civilized arrangement.
It is wide, long, stubborn, and unregenerate— a true brute of a street. A dead end with a life all its own.”
My first apartment in the City was a 150 square-foot studio located above a strip club on Mid-Market between Sixth & Seventh streets. I remember my first walk down Market Street as if it were yesterday and have walked the length of it several hundreds of times since. But never while focusing on anything in particular and never with a camera in hand.
When Patrick approached me about doing a guest post, I mentioned that I was interested in composing a photo-story on Market Street and the people one sees while walking along it.
Create. For this project, I decided to use an iPhone 4s along with a couple of camera apps to make the the photographs. I’ve been using this combination for a personal portrait project for 6+ months and have been quite happy with the image quality and the subtle nature of the camera itself.
I focused on the lower and central areas of Market Street in order to capture the energy of the people in the densest sections of the city’s main thoroughfare. The walk completed around 9 hours, starting at the Ferry Building and walking southwest towards Tenth Street.
The biggest overall challenge was the harsh midday sun and the way it casually bounced and reflected off taller buildings, spilling into the street. I solved this by constantly switching sides of the street and repositioning my subjects in better light.
The second challenge was keeping the iPhone battery powered during the eight hours I was out. (Camera apps drain the battery much faster than in normal use.) I solved this by recharging at Sutter Station (3 pints of beer) and Cafe Trieste (1 double latte) along the way. Both locations offered free WiFi in addition to power outlets.
While not a direct challenge, composing using a square format (rather than rectangle) does limit what you can include in the picture.
Grow. What I learned most from this shoot was in directing my subjects and keeping their attention while composing. It taught me to focus on what was directly in front of me and to move quickly. Many of these folks were working (or hustling) while I made their portrait, preoccupied with what they were doing before I approached them.
(Info on each photo below images)
1. Rabbi Saint Laurence beating his drum in Harry Bridges Plaza
2. Famous Wayne, the shoeshine king of the world
3. A dog named Tramp
4. Patrick, newspaper & magazine salesman (reading about the iPad3)
5. Tim, UPS deliveryman to the 500 block of Market Street for 20+ years
6. Vietnam Tom aka Epic Beard Man
7. Tony, homeless
8. SPPD traffic stop
9. A dog named Cujo
10. Market Street hustler & designer watch salesman, International Red
11. Spaceman and his magic broom
12. Casey, homeless
13. Man reading newspaper
14. Judy, homeless
15. Little Mike
16. Unnamed dog at United Nations Plaza
17. Accordion player named Roger & his dog Ginger
18. SFPD ticketing man for drinking in public
19. Issach covers his face
20. Boston George gives a two finger salute