San Francisco, My Cut


A local photographer shoots impassioned street art, improbable angles, haunting waterfronts, and other slices of San Francisco as he's come to know it.

About the photographer
After 13 years in San Francisco, David Fenton is finally back home in Oakland, Calif. His clients include Sunset, Rhino Records, and Adidas; find out more at


Photo captions
1 The Castro Theatre has shifted its tone over the past few years—think less provocative Fassbinder films and a lot more Little Mermaid sing-alongs—but with a marquee like that and a working Wurlitzer organ, complaining just doesn't feel right. Photo

2 I love this: multiple generations making their way up a Chinatown hill, with the old gods cheering them on from above. Photo

3 Maybe it helps to be a photographer to appreciate the web of streetcar cables in the city. Look up and there's an ever-changing grid, each little rectangle its own framed image—for as long as you're standing still. Photo

4 Yerba Buena Gardens is S.F.'s answer to NYC's Bryant Park—a well-managed little green zone in the middle of all the bustle, where people with day jobs manage to fall asleep at lunchtime. Photo

5 Not all graffiti is created equal. I can't even begin to wonder what this means; the artist asked first, anyway. Photo

6 There are a LOT of hookahs for sale on Haight Street, but no one's ever offered to sell me flavored tobacco. The hookahs do carry an element of mystique, however, that a row of bongs just can't deliver. Photo

7 I came here to shoot a sunrise that never really happened. Hours later, it looked exactly the same. But then again, maybe the S.F. waterfront looks best this way, clipped of all its colors by the fog, almost like a film noir. Photo

8 This huge old tree at the entrance to the Botanical Garden provides a dose of humility to anyone who stands under it. I guess it helps put things in perspective, which I imagine is just what the groups of people who commune under it every morning have in mind. Photo

9 St. Francis Fountain, deep in the Mission since 1918. Tofu scrambles and something called the "Nebulous Potato Thing" may be its bread and butter these days, but kids still line up for old-time candy and ice cream cones all summer. Photo

10 A holdover from the Summer of Love? This old van in the Dogpatch neighborhood has been around forever, just like the ivy-covered building behind it. Time seems to be swallowing them both up, but each one manages to wear its age well. Photo

11 The Sutro Baths were lost to a fire so long ago that most San Franciscans only associate the name with these enigmatic ruins. At the city's northwestern edge, it's an awesome place to spend a few hours pondering the crashing waves—and the site's original purpose. Photo

12 Agitprop, a Prius, and a repurposed old police station—add a couple of fair-trade lattes, and this Mission neighborhood scene would say "San Francisco" more than the Golden Gate Bridge ever could. Photo

13 Terroir, a wine shop and bar in the SoMa neighborhood, is like a library, almost. The place is dead serious when it comes to wine. Food and drink is this town's secular religion, and charlatans are not tolerated. Photo

14 This Ferry Building scene, save for the BMX dude, is like a little slice of 1950s San Francisco. The streetcar might be far from original, but if you squint a little, you can almost picture an army of gray-suited office workers spilling out and marching up Market Street. Photo

15 San Francisco is built at impossible angles (how the roof and the base manage to tilt in opposite directions is beyond me). Until the DEA stopped by last year, this Dogpatch warehouse was the distribution hub for a small chain of medical-marijuana dispensaries, with blacked out windows and surveillance cameras galore. Photo

16 The Bay Bridge never got its due. Battleship gray and built for utility, it only made the papers when a chunk of it collapsed in the 1989 earthquake. Now it's being replaced with an even less exciting span. But for anyone who grew up in the East Bay, it will always be the real gateway to the city. Photo

17 Darkness at noon: what midday looks like on a summer weekend. Photo

18 Dolled-up Victorians get too much attention. This row of town houses on Potrero Hill is how S.F. really lives. Row after row, block after block, houses like these stretch from Potrero Hill all the way to the beach. Add sunshine for color, and it makes you a little wistful. Photo

19 San Francisco's not really a big-building kind of town. The whole place seems about three stories tall, which is why going downtown by the Transamerica skyscraper feels like a field trip. Photo

20 The Twin Peaks bar at Castro and Market has a nickname: the glass coffin. At night it's a fishbowl, the inside filled with people of all ages on a long, slow drunk. Days are a little different—the street corner becomes one of the best for watching waves of people walk, run, strut, and stagger by. Photo

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