We interview Dave Glass, who has shot San Francisco since the 1960s

Date
2 October 2014
Reading Time
4 minute read

Flickr is one of those magical treasure mines of the internet that’s sure to yield gems if you just look hard enough, and every now and again on our travels we stumble across a great hunk of uncut diamond. To continue the metaphor, Dave Glass is one such treasure.

The San Francisco native has been photographing in California since his childhood growing up in the Western Addition and Sunset districts in the 1950s and 60s, and as such his archive is less a collection of images and more a comprehensive and awe-inspiring record of the progression and change of one of the west coast’s most wonderful cities. Intrigued by the quantity of work he has produced, we interviewed the photographer about his life, his work, and his love of the city.

“The small, inexpensive roll film cameras made by Kodak and other makers were popular in that era,” Dave explains, “and they allowed easy access to the basic tools of photography. I began photographing at age 11 with a Kodak Brownie with Verichrome Pan film, then later with an old Leica IIIa that my father brought back from post-war Germany. 

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Dave Glass: Civic Centre San Francisco, 1993

“I have been photographing San Francisco ever since. Fortunately I have never succumbed the the temptation to move away, and now moving would be unthinkable. I love many things about this city, the light, fog, hills, the rich history, the interesting neighbourhoods. There is much to see here, but to really know San Francisco, it has to be lived.”

I love many things about this city, the light, fog, hills, the rich history, the interesting neighbourhoods. There is much to see here, but to really know San Francisco, it has to be lived.

Dave Glass

What does Dave look for when he’s out photographing in the city? “Ever since my days as a photography student at CCSF, I have been photographing San Francisco with an eye towards documenting the constantly changing city, the buildings we live in, the cars we drive, the clothes we wore, the local culture and history. I love to tell stories, I just want to tell a story with my camera.”

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Dave Glass: Haight Ashbury, 1992

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Dave Glass: Mission and 3rd Street, San Francisco, 1984

Dave’s work has remained largely consistent throughout his career, and subtle hints of the photographers who have influenced him the most profoundly can occasionally be spotted in composition, or in the prevailing mood. “The works of such photographers like Robert Frank, Henri Cartier Bresson, Andre Kertesz, Nicholas Nixon, and Danny Lyon are my favorites,” Dave tells us.

"San Francisco has changed a great deal, from a blue-collar port city with rust and peeling paint to the world’s modern high tech hub. But the beautiful light that San Francisco is so famous for will never change."

Dave Glass

“Much of my influence comes from the study of the photographers who were contracted by the FSA (Farm Security Administration) to document the Great Depression in the US, including Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein, Marion Post Woolcot, Carl Mydans, Gordon Parks, Walker Evans, and others. Later, many of these great photographers went on to photograph for LIFE magazine, likely the most prominent picture magazine of its era in America.”

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Dave Glass: South of Market, San Francisco, 1989

Writing to the photographer from a studio in grey drizzly London, San Francisco with its inimitable charm couldn’t feel further away. I wanted to know, if he could take us for a walk anywhere in the city, where would he take us? “Nob Hill district is the quintessential San Francisco neighbourhood, a district of hills overlooking the bay, and streets that seem to form a grid to create some of the most interesting views anywhere.” Sounds pretty good, no?

“North Beach, Chinatown, Tenderloin, and Polk Gulch are all districts surrounding Nob Hill,” Dave goes on, “offering a wonderful afternoon or evening walk that will showcase all that is special to the city of San Francisco. The Victorian houses built out of redwood, the Chinese lanterns of Stockton Street, the views of Telegraph Hill, the unique cultures of The Tenderloin, the people of San Francisco living and working on Nob Hill… The rich history, the ethnic foods, the markets, the busy bars and cafes, it’s a maze that everyone should enter when visiting San Francisco.”

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Dave Glass: Oakland, California, 1993

In spite of the city’s rapid development, transforming it into a place completely unlike the one he grew up in, Dave doesn’t feel concerned about city losing its old magic. “San Francisco has changed a great deal,” he explains, “from a blue-collar port city with rust and peeling paint, to the world’s modern high tech hub. However, the beautiful light that San Francisco is so famous for will never change. That light that is seen in so many photographs taken by some of the worlds greatest photographers.”

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Dave Glass: Haight Ashbury, San Francisco, 1990

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Dave Glass: 3rd Street, San Francisco, 1984

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Dave Glass: Muscle Beach, Los Angeles, 1982

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Dave Glass: Western Addition, San Francisco, 1977

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Dave Glass: Tenderloin, San Francisco, 1985

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About the Author

Maisie Skidmore

Maisie joined It’s Nice That fresh out of university in the summer of 2013 as an intern before joining full time as an Assistant Editor. Maisie left It’s Nice That in July 2015.

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