The tale of our fair city, SF Camerawork‘s Autobiography of the San Francisco Bay Area showcases both the best of times and the worst of times. Socialites, authors, homeless, Symbionese Liberation Army, and yes, even Alice Waters come together in this pictorial history of San Francisco. Part one of the story–San Francisco Plays Itself–premieres tonight to the general public from 5 to 8 p.m.

Some names may be familiar, like Catherine Wagner, Larry Sultan, Catherine Opie, Judy Dater, Annie Leibovitz, Kota Ezawa, Jim Goldberg, Richard Misrach, and John Chiara. But most of all, the familiar places and people welcome you to a textured exposition of home. There’s a gritty, unpolished capture of Leavenworth Street. Across the room, the poised Denise Hale (pictured above) holds court at her estate.

The city becomes the medium, a canvas on which to leave a mark, especially a cultural and ethnic stamp. Zig Jackson’s series of self-portraits depict his claiming of land. Donning an Indian chief headdress, Jackson (a.k.a Rising Buffalo) stands in front of self-erected signs announcing “Entering Zig’s Indian Reservation.” Another self-portrait shows Tseng Kwong Chi, the unassuming Asian tourist, dressed in a jacket a la Mao Zedong in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The exhibit defines San Francisco across a loose spectrum, both full of life and abandoned, with people of means and people of color, dirty and beautiful. Today, Camerawork looks to the past of the city. Part two, however, looks ahead in The Future Lasts a Long Time, slated to open in January 7, 2010.

What: a mostly photographic Autobiography of the San Francisco Bay Area
When: Thursday, September 10 until Saturday, October 31 (Viewing hours are 12 to 5 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays)
Where: SF Camerawork at 657 Mission Street, 2nd Floor
Cost: general $5, $2 for students and seniors, free to Camerawork members

All images courtesy of SF Camerawork.

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