San Francisco, a city of picture-postcard beauty wasn’t always as pretty as it is today. Semi-industrial ‘wastelands’, like the South of Market (SoMA) neighborhood, have been transformed into expensive, hip hoods, filled with tech firms and wealthy tech workers living in luxury condos. Let’s cast our mind back to a time not long ago, a time before the internet and the associated tech money that has changed the city so dramatically, and remember what San Francisco used to look like.
I visited San Francisco for the first time in 1989 and I immediately fell in love with the city’s beauty. I ended up spending some time there in the late 1990s, both during and after the dotcom bubble, and remember seeing the place change dramatically.
Today, with the huge investment in tech that continues unabated, it’s changed dramatically again over the last 15 years or so – in particular, the neighborhood known as South of Market, which is now home to tech giants like Air B&B, Uber, Square and Twitter.
It wasn't that long ago when SoMA was a very different place, as photographer Janet Delaney documented in these wonderful shots that she made with a 4x5 large format camera in the mid 70s through to the mid 80s.
Janet shot these when she lived in the neighborhood, between 1978 and 1986, an absolute eon away from the tech world and money that San Francisco represents today.
Janet was living in SoMA at a time when unprecedented change was transforming the neighborhood. Redevelopment started with the Moscone Center (now known as the public announcing point for all things Apple). As redevelopment picked up pace, and the first wave of gentrification of the neighborhood took hold, Janet set out to document where she lived through until 1986, when she was eventually priced out and forced to move to Berkley in the East Bay.
With much of San Francisco unaffordable now, and tech giants ruling much of the city’s real estate, her documentary work of SoMA is more relevant than ever before, as the same issues she documented back then can be seen today as merely the tip of a much larger iceberg that San Francisco residents continue to deal with.
If you happen to be in San Francisco between now and July 19th 2015, you can see more of Janet’s brilliant “South of Market” work at the fantastic de Young Museum in San Francisco