By Eduardo Tizoc Morales
As soon as I walked in the Tenderloin Museum I was drawn to nine frames. As I got closer I saw in each frame a unique perspective on how different, yet spirited the Tenderloin has been through the decades.
Former City College student and inventive photographer Dave Glass has a free exhibit at the Tenderloin Museum called Central City 1970 – 2016. Glass is a professional photographer with over 50 years of experience – a lot of which captured everyday life in the controversial Tenderloin district. This exhibit is the culmination of three decades as a laundromat owner-operator and appliance repairman with a camera always handy in the Tenderloin.
A San Francisco native, Glass started photographing at the age of 11 with an inexpensive Kodak Brownie. Years later in 1969 he took his eye for photography to City College to study photo-journalism. At City College he was able to mature and develop a goal to shoot the locale he loves dearly, to capture the essence and culture of the ever changing city.
This exhibition came to be from a close relationship between Glass and the Tenderloin Museum. Glass has been a contributor since the museum’s inception. Initially, Glass supplied the museum with pictures of the Cadillac Hotel which used to be located where the Tenderloin Museum now stands.
Nine 11 inch by 14 inch black and white photos are in the exhibit. Each one captures a moment of San Francisco history and the life of common folk throughout the decades in the Tenderloin.
He uses motion blur in his photography to encapsulate movement and make the viewer feel present in the moment. One, for example, shows a dapper elderly bartender preparing a cocktail for a few regulars at the Aunt Charlie’s Lounge in the Tenderloin, which has been open since 1987 and is the last remaining Queer bar in the district. Another from 1992 captures an earnest woman waving her arm among her slick group of friends on the streets of the Tenderloin, showing off local 90s fashion.
Glass richly uses vectors to give off a sense of depth to give an idea of how big the crowds were, much like in the photo of a protest of the Iraq war in 2003 displayed in front of the Asian Art Museum before it opened. There you see agitated and hopeful protesters looking in all directions, some on top of a bus, a few holding signs, but all are determined to stop the war.
All his photos have beautiful composition and elegantly harmonize representation of blue collar workers, civil rights movements and locals lounging around enjoying life with Glass’s talented and modest eye. His exhibit shows to great effect how much the city has changed and keeps on changing as well as how the Tenderloin has had an impact on San Francisco history.
Glass is giving an artist talk about his exhibit at the Tenderloin Museum on Dec. 7 from 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. along with his colleagues Adrian Martinez and Austin Leong who are co-directors of the Book and Job Gallery here in San Francisco. Earlier this year they published a limited release photobook for illetante books, their own collaborative publishing collective called Wash City.
If you want to enjoy the rest of the museum, which is highly recommended, the student price is $6 and general admission is $10. The museum gives a deeper look into the Tenderloin’s history.
The Tenderloin Museum, located at 398 Eddy St. in San Francisco, is open from Tuesday to Saturday at 10. a.m. to 5 p.m. The free exhibit will be on display from Oct. 5 to Dec. 30 and is free to the public.