Minor White

“My own place in this thing called photography? Lately it has come to my attention that perhaps I have a place in it, not entirely held by others.” (Minor White; Wikipedia)

This post is a collection of updates of Minor White photographs taken in San Francisco in the late 1940s and early 1950s. When you look at my updated pictures, it’s easy to see who the master is and who’s the imitator. Still, San Francisco has changed a lot since the vintage pictures were taken, and my pictures are only geographical comparisons of a few of Minor White’s images from a long ago San Francisco. The source pictures are from the digital library of the California Historical Society page on the internet. (Thumbnail images)

An ambulance on Market Street, between First and Second Streets, in 1951: The Hunter-Dulin Building on Montgomery and Sutter Streets where Sam Spade had his fictional office in the ‘Maltese Falcon’ is almost completely blocked out from the view here by the Wells Fargo Building, built in the 1960s.

Montgomery and California Streets, the heart of white-collar San Francisco, looking south along Montgomery Street in 1950


Looking across the Embarcadero toward the old Hills Bros. Coffee Building in 1949:

A lot of Minor White’s San Francisco photos were taken along the Embarcadero. This view is looking toward Telegraph Hill, between Union and Filbert Streets, in 1949.

This is one of White’s most famous pictures, taken on the northeast corner of Pine and Sansome Streets in 1949. I’m not sure if the 49 – 52 at the bottom of his picture represents the number of his pictures he took in San Francisco.

Where Lombard Street comes in to the Embarcadero in 1949: This is a great shot of a Belt Line Railroad engine.

Where Filbert Street used to merge with the Embarcadero in 1949: This is the view today from Levi Strauss Plaza about where the vintage picture was taken: Although the Levi Strauss Plaza, built in the early 1980s, is a great spot for catching some sun or having a bag lunch, there’s a lot to be said for the New Deal Restaurant. Like ‘Alice’s Restaurant’, you could have probably gotten anything you want.


In front of the Pacific Union Club in 1949: Grace Cathedral is in the background. Construction on Grace Cathedral had been halted by 1949 and the remaining work, along with the south spire, was not completed until 1964.









Following in my own footsteps (Part three)

In May of 2019, as part of the longest title of any of my posts, I promised ‘Still, still, still more pictures from the 1980s’. These are another collection of slide pictures I took from 1983 to 1986 that I had converted to a digital CD. Slide pictures convert to digital much better than snapshots, and A1 Photo & Video Lab in Berkeley does about the best job of doing the transfers that I know of. Oh, no, now I’m even running commercials on my blog! (Thumbnail images)

Cable cars are up and running again, and for now they’re free, which is even better than the 25 cents I used to pay to ride them when I was a teenager. I don’t remember what the fee was in 1983, but I was riding one up California Street in the spring of ’83 when we got in somebody’s picture passing Old St. Mary’s Church at Grant Avenue and California Street. Last weekend, I thought I’d ride on a California Street cable car to update my 1983 slide. I missed my shot heading up because I couldn’t get a spot on the side of the cable car I had to be on, so I got off at Powell Street, waited for another one going down California Street, and got on the side I needed to be on without having to knock somebody off. The cable car stopped pretty close to the angle I was in 1983, (just for me, no doubt) and I got my update. The traditional phone booth next to St. Mary’s was still there in 1983. Photographer Fred Lyon took a great picture during the 1960s at this phone booth that I updated in October of 2019.

Looking down Jones Street past Union Street in 1983: I rode my e-bike here earlier this week to get my recent picture, you can see it down by the corner. I don’t remember how I got up here in 1983. You have to do a lot of uphill traveling to get here. I didn’t ride Muni much back then, but I did have a 1973 Ford Maverick that I took over to the City a lot in those days. That old nag would’ve made up here okay.

The Hyde Street Pier in 1985: The C.A. Thayer schooner, on the right, was repositioned aft out now to make room for the sailing ship the Balclutha, on the left.


Looking up Powell Street from Geary Blvd. in the spring of 1983: You can still see the repair work on the Powell Street cable car line that necessitated a shutdown of the entire cable car system from the fall of 1982 to June of 1984. The recent shut down of the cable car system due to the Covid-19 Pandemic of 2020, although not as long, was the longest closure of the cable car system since the 1982 – 1984 overhaul of the system.


The rest of the updates were taken on Fleet Day in October of 1986 from Telegraph Hill. This one was taken from Chestnut Street looking toward Pier 35. This was still during the Cold War when I took my first picture, and there was quite a lot of naval presence on display that day. We’ll get closer to the aircraft carrier in the next photos to see who she is.

I moved further up Telegraph Hill in 1986 to get this slide. The aircraft carrier is number 65; the USS Enterprise. She was decommissioned in February of 2017.

Like the previous photos, these ones were taken from the end of Lombard Street before it climbs the rest of the way up to Coit Tower. I’ve zoomed in on the slide to see if the ship second from the left is the Jeremiah O’Brien, but I don’t think it is.

I watched USS Enterprise as she moved off and sailed under the Bay Bridge. We’ll just never see anything like this again.

“Perpendicular, hanging on a cable car”

They’ve been out-of-date for over a hundred years, but it’s good to see the cable cars back running again. I went over there this week to take advantage of the free cable car rides throughout all of August. Incidentally, the title to this post comes from Judy Garland’s knock-out version of the song ‘San Francisco’. (Thumbnail images)

The cable car turnaround at Aquatic Park in 1969: West Coast Furniture; I think they’re still around, if you want to drive to Bakersfield. (ebay.com)


Hyde and Chestnut Streets and those spectacular views, in the 1970s: (SFMTA)


In front of the St Francis Hotel during the Cable Car Centennial of 1973: (SFMTA)

Hyde and Chestnut Streets in 1968: (UCSF Library)

Grant Avenue and California Street: “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates life.” It’s nice to see people running to catch a cable car again. (Ted Lewy)

“Perpendicular, hanging on a cable car”

Noirish updating

I don’t know if there’s such a word as noirish, my word program on my computer has it underlined in red, but if not, I’ll pretend there is. These are a collection of black and white updates of pictures that have a noirish appearance. (There’s that word again) Some of the vintage pictures are from movies that would be considered film noir, but most of the old images are just noirish looking. Hmm, my word program’s going to run out of red ink. (Thumbnail images)

Downtown San Francisco in the 1950s from Ina Coolbrith Park:

Chinatown, at Grant Avenue and California Street, circa late 1950s: The cable car operators were practicing their runs yesterday for today’s official opening of the cable cars, and now that intersection looks more natural. (Gene Wright)

The Golden Gate Bridge, from the master of noirish photography during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, Fred Lyon:


Another image at Grant Avenue and California Street from the 1949 film ‘Red Light’ starring George Raft and Raymond Burr: Old St. Mary’s Church is in the background. I like that shadowy figure in the film shot.

The Cliff House in the 1950s, sadly empty today: (Fred Lyon)

A spooky looking International Settlement on Pacific Avenue at Montgomery Street during the 1940s: (ebay.com)

Jones Street, looking down from California Street during the 1950s: This is a scary street to drive down.


The top of the Filbert Steps on Telegraph Hill during the 1950s from another Fred Lyon image:

A Communist safe-house near Clay and Mason Streets from the 1948 film ‘Walk a Crooked Mile’: This movie has some great shots of Nob Hill and Chinatown.


Naturally, you can’t have a San Francisco noirish updates post without including the Ferry Building; from a 1951 picture by Gene Wright.