September 15, 2013

San Francisco's Grip

One of the books on the shelf of the hotel room in Gualala was a big dilapidated old hardback called “San Francisco's Grip”. When I first saw the title on the spine I thought it was probably something along the lines of how Good Old San Francisco keeps pulling you back into it… but no, it turned out to be a photo essay on the cable cars, the grips, and the associated machinery (and a few tweely-gratuitous nudes) by a photographer named Jimo Perini, published in 1969.

His photos are wonderful – black and white, technically excellent, and beautifully evocative of a time and place (and faces) long gone. They're timeless, transcendent; he's an infinitely better photographer than I'll ever be.

But his writing… so much studiedly-casual, manly, preening self-regard of the “look at me! I'm so down with the demi-monde, my life is so full of diversity! Celebrate me!” sort. Badly dated, in other words; very much of its time and place. His photos draw attention to their subjects; his writing draws attention to himself.

But then who would look to a book like this for the words?

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