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tv   Photography 1906 San Francisco Earthquake  CSPAN  June 5, 2021 10:50am-12:01pm EDT

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pleased to welcome
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professor carolyn gorgan. she is joining us from paris where i believe it is now about nine pm. and today she's going to be talking about vernacular images and personal accounts made in the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake and fires, san francisco. gorgen is associate professor of american studies at sorbonne university in paris where she teaches american history and culture. her research explores the history of photography in the american west with a special focus on photo networks like the california camera club. her work is rooted in extensive archival research some of which he has conducted at the california historical society. and it has received support from the terra foundation for american art the binicky library at yale the huntington library and the amon carter museum. recently, she was awarded research prizes from the german photographic society and the
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deutsche borsa photography foundation. she has also a contributing author to the forthcoming book among the ruins arnold genthos photographs of the 1906 san francisco earthquake and firestorm a publication of the fine arts museums of san francisco, which will be available this august. so with that, let me hand it over to professor gorgon carolyn. thank you so much for being with us today. hey, thank you very much. aaron for this introduction. i'll just share my screen and then. well get going so you can see this, right? okay. all right. okay. thanks a lot. so hello everyone. thank you aaron, and thank you to the wonderful staff at the california historical society for hosting this event even though i cannot see you. i want to thank you all very much for coming so over the past seven years. i've conducted research on
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california, california photography around 1900 and it all started when i came across the vast digital photo collection that was made available on the centennial of the earthquake in 2006 a very useful tool for scholars like me who are located abroad in recent years. i have worked in photo archives across california and remain fascinated by the output of images produced on and after april 19th. oh six today, i would like to talk about the ways in which we can approach this mass and perhaps find new readings these extraordinary images so when in the early morning hours of april 18th, 1906 the earth shook for about one minute san francisco's were soon confronted with broken gas pipes thick smoke and by 5:30 am more than 50 fires. although the city had experienced numerous fires and earthquakes thus it's unix
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rising from the ashes the disaster of 1906 left some 250,000 people homeless in what was then the nation's eighth largest city. we know that within northern california's thriving art scene the earthquake marks a turning point painters such as william keith phil lost their studio and the city's foremost fine art institution the mark hopkins institute of art was destroyed. san francisco's vibrant photographer community also suffered a major losses german immigrant photographer arnold gente watched his studio burn and so did prominent portrait photographer. izziah w tabor whose ad tons of negatives disappeared in the flames. 76 year old carlton watkins had to be escorted out of his home as you can see here leaving behind a large collection of the garyotypes and negatives. that would have been transferred to a safer storage location. only a few days later. the country's largest photo
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collective the california camera club reported that only four out of its 400 members had been able to save some possessions not to speak of their headquarters in the academy of sciences, which you can see pictured here on market street, which went up in smoke. by early may the san francisco call reported the loss of priceless materials stating that i quote in all san francisco they remain but a few hundred photographic negatives of the countless thousands taken of persons prominent here for the past half century. and club members of the california camera club rode in camera craft i quote again. there are too many weighty problem weighty material problems to be solved and too many no doubt as far as photographic art is concerned one had best forget it for the time being quote and despite these immense losses the earthquake and fire triggered and unprecedented image production the year before the
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disaster in 1905 east minn kodak had sold more than 1.2 million cameras. the company had expanded massively since the 1880s with the advent of photographic film the one dollar brownie camera and the slogan you pushed the button we do the rest. historians have estimated estimated that about one-third of the us population could have owned a handheld camera by a 1906 and a reporter of the los angeles herald observed a similar phenomenon in san francisco in early may and i quote here the streets of the burns of the burned districts were thronged today with sightseers every train from neighboring towns on the peninsula and every ferry boat from the bay counties was packed with people eager to get their first glimpse of the city's devastation and almost every third person carried a camera or a kodak quote. similarly photographers reported in camera craft that photo
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equipment in oakland in berkeley and alameda was sold or rented. and the wand of apparatus was such that over the summer professional photographers from across the country donated cameras films and appliances to san francisco. eastman kodak even contributed with 1,500 for the city's professional photographers with this incoming support photographer edward cohen summed up the situation as follows the probabilities are that never since cameras were first invented has there been such a large number eight use at any one place as there has been in san francisco since the 18th of last april everyone who either possessed could buy or borrow one and was then fortunate enough to secure supplies for it made more or less good use of his knowledge of photography. today this output can be viewed online. thanks to the san francisco earthquake and fire project.
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it includes digitized photographs albums postcards correspondence and eyewitness accounts from six institutions the california historical society the bancroft library the california state library the society of california pioneers the huntington and stanford university. and some 14,000 photographs that have been digitized illustrated the destroyed city and and the rebuilding efforts and these are only the ones that have been donated to collecting institutions. for a photo historian the question of what to do with this primary source mass imposes itself. one might be tempted to qualify the output as part of the early 20th century vernacular photography. that is snapshots. that's spontaneously and playfully capture everyday life produce. thanks to the increasing availability of both cameras and leisure. however, the photographs taken
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on and after april 18th are anything but ordinary they were made in a very specific geographic social and political context and oftentimes created on carefully chosen material supports. in the standard histories of american photography around 1900 there is little room for these objects for the past half century historians have looked mostly at the fine art ambitions of figures like alfred stieglitz and his new york photo secession or more recently museums have displayed a handful of snapshots yet only the ones that appear as one curator termed it artistically intriguing are shown in museums. this exclusive approach has come at the expense of a more thorough inquiry into the sources that reside in local collections. so while certainly it's
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snapshots by unidentified photographers appeal to our imagination it would be useful to look at these materials up close treasure to understand when and how were these images produced what function could they have served at the time? what was the maker social political and perhaps even emotional connection to these images? so today against the background of the 1906 disaster, i would like to provide a partial answer to these questions. thanks to a photo album from the california historical society collection. which shows san francisco in may of 1906. instead of cheerful pictures and intimate testimony unfolds through these pages. it discloses the anxieties challenges and material ways of dealing with the earthquake and fire and those were aspects that are that were distorted in the official publication channels of the time.
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in a first part i would like to briefly look at the album as a powerful material support in times of disaster as photo albums became available in the 19th century. they took on the role of social objects as numerous scholars have demonstrated. the album would be carefully curated assembling memories in the form of images texts clippings and other ephemera. it could be kept as a private object or circulated among designated group of people. the maker would situate themselves in the pages and combine their own memory with other visuals. in the month following april 1906 many albums combined commercial views and private photographs or annotations as you can see here. blending public imagery and personal voice allowed the maker to articulate their own story of the event and thus transform the
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commodity album into a personal possession. these so-called album rituals in the words of elizabeth siegel carry a collective ceremonial dimension. they link the micro experience of citizens to a larger community. what made the album attractive in the wake of the disaster was its formal purity the tabular rasa of the album a blank slate invited new stories to fill the empty pages. albums had a double function of visually reconstructing the event and representing a new material possession of one's own after everything that had been lost. album maker is created a coherent narrative that could be viewed told to others and related to a larger experience. individual disaster albums are an extremely valuable source as they run counter to the narrative which was circulated in the summer of 1906 and would
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remain official history until the mid 20th century. as as earthquakes are unpredictable or even invisible events many a politician investor and insurance company frame the event as yet another great fire, which the country had seen on numerous occasions in chicago in 1871 in baltimore in 1904. boosters of the american west that is entrepreneurs and companies promoting the west as a desirable place of settlement soon spread before and after images of the city to downplay the impact of the event of the on the on the bay area and to continue to lure investors. the city was to rise against so when the story like a phoenix and so were its offices banks theaters and mansions. city officials collaborated with professional photographers and the california camera club to create a local patriotic story reaching back to the myth of san
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francisco as a pioneer city. together they disseminated illustrated publications on the reconstruction effort at times also in the shape of albums. state announced a new city in the making for example in a wide-angle shot like this one of a refugee camp in which cottages infrastructure and the surrounding city appear orderly and sanitized. personal photo albums however, tell a different story they provide an ambiguous perspective one in which feelings of loss disdain towards local politics and reluctant optimism are combined all at once. album number 11 is one such source. it was assembled by an unknown individual from san francisco one month after the disaster. and features 25 rectal verso pages with some 50 photographs all of which are personal
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prints. so the california historical society holds a remarkable collection of more than 200 photo albums a dozen of which the 1906 event. and i specifically chose album number 11 because it is the only source that includes an elaborate sequence by an anonymous photographer without additions of commercial images in between it was donated to chs the same year. so 1906. and so while recent scholarship has paid attention to such anonymous prints of the earthquake the album as historical source is mentioned only in passing and so album number 11 provides us with a useful starting point for understanding their social function. so starting with a short documentation of life and refugee camps the album mainly consists of a walking tour through byrne districts, it documents damage of specific
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sites including the maker's neighborhood and public venues the captions short yet effective. give at times nostalgic at times political but also sarcastic commentary the third photograph in the album, which you can see here is the first two to pick people a family father mother and daughter alongside two women on the right there and a dog are posing in front of a wooden shelter. while the family are seated for the photograph the two women are standing at the entrance of the makeshift home and seem engaged in some activity, which they briefly interrupt for the time that the picture is taken. the family are rather well-dressed and contrast to the attire of the two women standing next to the dog. the scene does not explicitly depict misery, but it does suggest the hardships of daily life. the division in two panels, there is underlined by the american flag, which you can see in the background that is waving in the air behind the shelter
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the experience of the core trade people is connected to this symbol of the flag as the caption indicates the spirit of patriotism helps them bear up happily after the great calamity so our gaze is directed towards the flag which stands as a reminder of durability. um the notion of national pride with which the images instilled through the caption is reminiscent of the official portrayal of camp life in publications from city officials as you can see here illustrated partly by professional photographers citizens could be seen quietly and during their new living conditions in an efficiently managed camp environment. um while it can only be speculated to what patriotism provided actual relief. it did appear important for the maker of album number 11 to align the sitters as affiliates to this spirit of the city.
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if we were to assume the maker to be the mother or father of the family the self ascribed role as local patriots is an important addition to the families story of the event. it allowed them to shape an interpretation which puts the sitters in the desired light. the family portrait is actually preceded by an image of one of the well-regulated streets and camptown as the caption reads and this shows an orderly arrangement of white tents on an expected expansive field. even though the families wouldn't shelter was apparently not located on on this street. no comment is made about a living conditions here. the family portrait is followed by some scenes of refugee life depicting several men and a young girl, perhaps the daughter material from a trailer. through this sequence the family's activities during the
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relief period are presented as contributions to reconstruction by actively engaging in the daily work of the camp and keeping up the quote unquote spirit. here the microscopic experience of one family traumatic as it may have been was adapted to a more broadly promoted national optimism. so these first few images of the album echo the official relief imagery for example in an album an official album created by professional photographer and camera club member charles weidner who later presented to x. mayor james d phelan in widener's album. we also find some flag waving viewed from the street level here the flag towers above the rooftops and endows the camps entrance with a stately atmosphere heightened by the presence of a uniformed man there to the right. while the personal album alluded to a spirit of patriotism through a family huddling next
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to a shelter and a dimly visible flag. the official album uses the flag as a defining element. plus in the city's official history military personnel embodied state authority and efficiency. other is such official images emphasized state control for example and depicting cottages in lobos square. this is another official image as our gays travels here across the rooftops the cottages merge into a coherent some symmetric hole while several destroyed structures are a thinly visible on the horizon there the vast portion of the photograph is occupied by this new settlement. it's it's location in the middle of an inhospitable environment again, reminds viewers of pioneer settlements in the bay area. just as the viewer tries to imagine what the living conditions between those
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rooftops and in the small alleys may look like they flip over the page to a view of a dozen tanks of sterilized water. so efficient disaster relief is thus demonstrated in those official albums in both detail and in panoramic views. at first stage albeit less bombastic album number 11 seems just subscribe to this reading yet. we quickly leave the camps behind and turn back to the destroyed city in album number 11. here. we find ourselves looking up california street from kearney amid piles of brick halfway through the pages and the walking tour slows down and the viewer is confronted with a more intimate disaster experience. just like for the few pedestrians visible in other pictures the return the return to one's familiar sites was an
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important, but also a painful endeavor. a photograph captioned many times. have we trodden the street shows a cable car track leading up a hill with bricks to one side and desolate facades to the other. the only continuity that can be established with the past lies in the maker who once again treads the street or what remains of the street and the torque continues and in the same district. from a more distance perspective. so as to depict the expanse of the damage since the earthquake and fire and raised to the ground practically all buildings the map of the city lay bear and brought unexpected perspectives to the fore as confirmed here by the caption, which reads it was very startling to see russian hill from powell and washington. so in this confusing setup of a once well-known location the photographer tries to make out
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specific points of reference like street names repeated in the captions in order to locate locate both themselves and the viewer. and although many a pedestrian would take portraits in this unfamiliar scenery album number 11 displays loss in a very striking manner a photograph captioned dear old 926 shows a woman standing next to what must be a completely torn down house while the debris occupies almost the entire foreground. she is depicted in a morning posture with her head slightly bent and a book in her hand. so reminiscent here of a funeral ceremony the photograph positions her in front of the house as if we as if she were standing at a grave paying her last respects to the dead the caption like a personal address to a loved one reinforces this deep fell loss.
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such explicit images of grief are rare yet. they are characteristic of the personal album as opposed to official publications. as survivors of the erased city their presence disclosed misery and pain instead of resilience and optimism. within the close viewing circle of the personal album expressing grief was accepted and was perhaps even welcome to related viewer number 926 was a reference familiar to the point that it not even it did not even require an additional street name. loss could therefore be more easily grasped when shared within this group. so be it former homes or public buildings situating a person within this unfamiliar space. what was a powerful tool to reaffirm? ones presence in the city? we may understand it as a
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photographic way of dealing with the situation. so bodies are deliberately positioned in relation to the city. so in labeling locations and dates for each scene, like here the continuity of time and place was upheld as a scholars as an alicam has suggested it was the very format of the photographs which circulated from one hand to the next that assisted this process. so monumental destruction was transformed and here i quote like him into small portable inanimate objects and thus the sense of control over the events was reestablished quote and in an album sequence these objects were then ordered in a coherent fashion. another way of affirming a personal connection with the setting was political commentary. as san francisco was well known for its corrupt administration
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the politics the paul. i'm sorry, the politicization of disaster images was not uncommon private photo albums, which documented the damaged city hall alluded to past controversies as one caption from a photograph here in the chs collection reads ruins of san francisco's 20 million dollar city hall after the earthquake april 18th, 1906 20 million dollar cost 20 years to build 20 seconds to destroy quote and so construction on this edifice had started as early as 1870 and by the time of its completion in 1899 almost three decades later it represented an ostentatious urban elite including ex-mayor james d phelan and his imperial desires for san francisco. in the wake of the disaster some artistically inclined photographers aim to reclaim a city hall notably by zooming in
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on the buildings corinthian pillars that were still standing amid the rubble. in these images reminiscent of ancient mediterranean civilizations many searched for a new urban aesthetic camera club member edward. so well whose photograph you can see here for example depicted the two pillars of the entrance and soft hughes in the pictorialist style of the time as though taking the viewer on a grand tour through a fallen city. the maker of album number 11 was an interested in the aesthetics of city hall, but they do evoke its instructive values. so instead of seeking out picturesque features, the photographer included a quick snap of the scene from a distance. it shows the dome amid a vergeable urban wasteland the view here city hall from market street is captioned a great example of corrupt ways.
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the image is not particularly. well composed with its slanted horizon and its obstructed view as only one of very few photographs of city hall in the album. the compiler did not make any attempt to enable the building or to imagine a fable of patriotism rather through a brief glimpse at the site from a distance city hall was dismissed as an embodiment of fraud that deserved rapid eradication. so as the walking tour continues through the wealthy waters on nob hill more explicit political comment is made given the impact of business elites on the city public aversions had been widespread since the 1870s not least since the mismanagement of city hall. oftentimes the criticism was leveled at the wealthy neighborhood of nob hill where the mansions of the big four
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railroad tycoons were located likely on stanford and here mark hopkins mansion, which we've seen before. on april 18's large portions of this district were destroyed official publications and many a club photographer benefiting from the railroad and other local companies saw to frame the ruins on nob hill as nostalgic sites of california's pioneering entrepreneurs. once one such residency ruin was renamed the portals of the past. i showed the home built by southern pacific railroad manager alvin town, and it was well known for its portico made of white marble. an occupied since town's death in 1896 the house continued to represent the style of high art villas that were stress san francisco's cultural refinement. the ruin of the town mansion consisted of ancient building
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material instead of modern-day rubble and it's greek design had withstood seismic shock and firestorms. and so the fact that it happened inhabited by an early californian entrepreneur added to the optimistic account of an imagined american mediterranean as kevin starr is called it. at the other end of the spectrum yet again the maker of album number 11 did not indulge in such reveries on nob hill the mansion of the so called sugar king klaus freckles is shown with its hollow window frames. so on the left here, you have a view of the spreckels home prior to the earthquake and on the right the image from the album. this freckles family family had made a fortune in sugar refineries in california and in hawaii and was well known speculating in real estate. sprinkles belong to the city's richest businessmen the caption to the photograph of his knob
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had nob hill home reads like a call for just treatment under disaster law. so with the sense of satisfaction, it states one time when money did not count the offer of a million dollars by sprinkles to the fireman had no effect to save his mansion quote and so with rumors of all kinds running high freckles's alleged search for advantages treatment under disaster law was a welcome anecdote to be added to the photograph. the mockery of these business ventures continues in the nob hill sequence of the album an image of blatant destruction to thirds occupied by debris was captioned here real estate is booming on van ness avenue a signpost lurking amid the rebel
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underlines this caption it suggests that the destroyed terrain could be easily advertised for sale. so connecting the the wasteland here with real estate the maker sarcastically adopted the the booster rhetoric in using this cartoonish tone the album's voice becomes increasingly political the author draws attention here to common practices at the time because thanks to facilitated burning building permits investors could rapidly occupy the land although decides had not been cleared and futurists risks had not been properly investigated. the album compiler demonstrates a familiarity with comic images that were disseminated after the disaster in the shape of postcards and articles so images like this one for example marked the newly entre entrepreneurial spirit or stride of san
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francisco, which was hard keep up with. although the profession of the compiler is unknown. they must have felt the imminent imminent threat housing in the city. many business and civic leaders, including aforementioned spreckels and former mayor james phelan prioritized the removal of working class neighborhoods citing health risks. it has been shown however that these efforts on the part of the business and cultural elite helped boost reinvestment in buildings and not in residential quarters. so these efforts reflect the the strategy of the city's board of real estate to downplay the earthquake and frame the catastrophe as a fire with minor consequences. again, professional photographers contributed to this by creating series of images that trace their removal of waste and reconstruction as we can see here by trural and miller of banks.
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so in speaking against this official optimism the compiler of album number set number 11 relied on their own voice as a local resident. the use of sarcasm and dark humor, especially when addressing housing problems created an emotional detachment from the desolate scene. it was an explicit pointing of fingers at the local administration and a re-channeling of feelings of loss and anger. the walking tour. i'm at the ruins and refugee camps in this anonymous album documents the unstable social and political climate of san francisco in 1906. far from unifying urban space it expressed the widely felt distrust in city officials and their corrupt practices. although the album does express a sense of patriotism notably at the beginning. it does not contribute to san francisco's phoenix rising from the ashes.
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it's neither aesthetic nor particularly playful and the images in the album shift our attention instead towards local politics and living conditions. so this is not every day photography, but instead a testimony of an extraordinary moment in personal and communal life. so the album thus becomes a complex object and it's trajectories cross the private and the public realm it provides a meaningful counterweight to the mass of photographs. we tend to sweepingly summarize as romantic ruins spectacular explosions harmonious camp life and optimistic rebuilding as such albums display how citizens who had just become accustomed to photography in the shape of kodak cameras documented their lives amid the not so every day circumstances in the spring of 1906.
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yet um in as much as this source adds a new voice to the disaster, it also leads to numerous absences. as pure borgio has famously argued amateur photography in the first decades of the 20th century actually reinforced and confirmed traditional middle class values since the practice of amateur photography remained within a mostly closed circle. the ambiguity of this idea is compressed an album number 11 on the one hand. the maker did not want to comply with the widely repeated chorus of a new san francisco instead. we see dislocation laws distrust and mockery despite the initial optimism. so the album attributes historical importance to citizens those living in refugee camps and returning to the ruins of their homes as the donation to the california historical society in 1906 also illustrates.
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and yet on the other hand the album recounts only one side of the event. it was created in a white possibly middle class san francisco with rapid access to commodities like cameras and albums. in the many disaster collections only very few sources document how less fortunate survivors coped with the aftermath. so in the last few moments of this talk, i would like to focus on how san francisco's chinese community experience the events of 1906. so on the whole minority experiences are largely absent from the disaster story the diverse crowd of onlookers in in the first hours as the disaster unfolded here in a photograph by arnold gente, um would be gradually whitewashed. so this is actually a very very rare representation since we see
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a group of african-american onlookers here on on the left and a group of chinese residents on on the right. so this is a rare depiction here of onlookers and san franciscans assisting the scene and over over the the following weeks these images disappear. so so during the after of the chinese communities, especially faced tremendous losses blatant racism and reinforced segregation. the city's small african-american community of some 1,600 people was confronted with similar obstacles as many found shelter in otherwise all white camps. an official publications albums and the larger archival landscapes. these experiences are either grossly distorted or simply absent. but to grasp the entire photo output of april 18th also means
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understanding these absences and these voluntary erasures. album number 11 actually shows one of these erasures. it includes a photograph captioned. looking down washington street from powell and overlooking chinatown. so the image shows a wasteland of bricks and ashes and apart from a horse-drawn carriage there to the left and two indistinct figures the neighborhood stands devoid of life. no further comment is made on this area which a few weeks earlier was till home to 25,000 chinese, san francisco. in recent years historians have come to agree that chinatown did not burn naturally a combination of factors including the disregard of its population the decision instead to try to save nob hill and the inappropriate use of explosives all led to the complete destruction of the quarter.
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during the three days of fire. the city's long history of discrimination played out in the behavior of the rescuers who were not concerned with chinese residents. chinese residents in turn did not address strangers for help. apart from a few exceptional cases of white employers taking in chinese persons or food stores providing meals on a non-discriminatory basis the rescue plan generally functioned along segregated lines. so while the military is depicted as an authoritative yet benevolent support unit in an official history as you can see here the the personnel actually patrols the streets and used a vigilante tactics reminiscent of the cities early days. the military followed a shoot to kill order issued by mayor schmitz, which disproportionately affected minorities and/or the poor. and even though martial law had
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never been officially declared. it was factually employed to serve as a deterrent especially to looters. the cities 26 refugee camps were segregated and boosters yet again drew a clear connection between social order and hygiene. a recent study on the conditions of disaster relief has disclosed that the camps helped native-born and middle class refugees rapidly transitioned back to normal while chinese san francisco's had to rely on help from their own dispersed community or flee across the bay to oakland. chinese refugees remaining in san francisco had to be constantly relocated as residents of the presidio where one of the largest camps was established protested their presence. false coverage circulated in the press and elsewhere for example in the shape of postcards that advertised respectable living
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conditions in the chinese camp. in reality, however, the camp lacked basic standards of sanitation and only 50 people would stay in it. these relatively recent findings laid out in a study by historian and to form the harmonious relief story. they show how long standing racist tropes of the chinese population as unsanitary will reactivated during the disaster again as seoujing zhou put it the chinese were confined within i quote a raised body and space. so certainly the camps for the city's white population were all so in a very bad condition contrary to official claims the chinese population. however, could not rely on a large scale relief effort. the hostile climate is also reflected in the archival record as up until the late 1980s.
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merely 12 deaths for the chinese community had been documented. as young chen has also shown the city's persistent pattern of anti-asian discrimination manifested itself also in physical violence a chinatown resident for example was tone to death on attempting to return to his former home and the japanese delegation of seismology professor fuzukichi. omari was assaulted on several occasions while investigating the earthquake. so the experience of relocation and discrimination reinforced bonds among the chinese community therefore the attempt of san francisco entrepreneurs and politicians to remove chinatown and open the space for investment eventually failed. however, statements published in the local and the national press strongly advocated and favor of transforming san francisco into an imperial white city without a
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chinese quarter. in album number 11 and in the many other albums these conflicts do not appear official disaster accounts additionally distort the historical record by sanitizing space by erasing conflict or by describing chinatown's destruction as merely a spectacular event. next to these very problematic representations. we also see the romanticizing of race relations. so with a few years distance to the event many an account depicted a nostalgia for pre-earthquic life in san francisco. arnold dancer in pictures of old chinatown describes a quarter as romantically mysterious. soft lens a chinese resident is depicted contemplating the ruins as though facing an uncertain future. a few years later paul elders,
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california the beautiful paired another of gente's photographs with a poem by will irwin declaring china town as i underlined here the real of san francisco. through soft tones and soft wording a consensus was still being shaped with the prospect of the panama pacific international exposite exposition and a speedy return to quote unquote normal on the horizon. it would require a decades to dismantle this so-called accepted history as roger bird has called it. so to conclude here so while album number 11 provides a more critical voice to the optimistic story of a rising san francisco. it remains an incomplete source like so many anonymous photo albums. today's viewers are left alone in reassembling the story that
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unfolds over the pages the ritual of pointing to details and of recounting the story is lost in the archives. it is up to us to reconstruct the narrative and to fill in the gaps. in the light of the massive photo output of 1906. it is important to remember that the presence or absence of specific disaster experiences is not random. there is no record of asian american or african-american photographers and very little written testimony. we are left with a handful of critical accounts of middle class. san francisco's taking to the streets with cameras at hand. still album number 11 remains a valuable point of departure to a much more complex story so in its pages as i showed here today the popular understandings and also the expectations of photography are expressed the tools of the medium of creating images objects and stories
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around them took on new meaning in san francisco in 1906 therefore when when we're confronted with this mass of images we browse those images online we may wish to ask where those images were made how they circulated and who would keep them. both the objects themselves and the archives in which they are preserved require these contextual questions. while the makers may have been every day practitioners, they pointed their cameras at an extraordinary setting in the future research should address the voices that emerged from the many libraries were photo albums and anonymous prints still await recognition and some of them since 1906 and this concludes my talk. thank you. thank you so much. that was a great talk and i really appreciate your call to continue research in archives
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and libraries like ours. so and i know that we have a couple of questions from audience or attendees, and i also have some questions. let me just first ask this one because i asked early on and i'll just ask it and then if you don't know we can we can get back to this person later, but an anonymous attendee asks if you can identify the house in your third or fourth slide. it's a fancy house and this person wants to know where they can find the picture so that may be one that we need to go back and just gonna oh great go over those 50 some slides then the fancy house this one. this is the fanciest i guess. okay, that must be it. um, that's that's not the the residence of mark hopkins. is that it? that answer the question?
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i hope so. okay, so i think so. that was that was the residence of mark hopkins which by the 19 the 1890s actually was turned into an art institute in collaboration with the university of california at berkeley. so by the the late 1890s and in the early 1900s exhibitions also photography were hosted there. and this is what would remain of it great. you see on the right there. yeah. thank you for for back to that. i have another question from an audience member who asks, i guess have you come across many images of of dairy come of milk being delivered to survivors. this is a this attendee. descends from a family of dairy cooperative. i think interesting.
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no, i i didn't i didn't i know that there are quite a few street kitchen photographs and i think even in the in the digital earthquake collection that i that i put up on screen here early on in the in the presentation. i think you can actually look for specific topics and if you search for street kitchen photographs or images of food distributions, i would guess that you'd find those there but i couldn't find any specific. distribution of dairy products no no and that is something that i'm also just so audience members know you can contact francis kaplan our reference librarian at california historical society to get help with some with a question like this. so and that's one option. i also have a question here carolyn.
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it says if not pictorialist aesthetic nor vernacular photographs. what status should we grant these album photographs documentary local history? what sources might you recommend for those wishing to integrate public and private histories. mm-hmm. yeah, that's that's a great question. so having studied this. canonic history of photography around 1900 quite a bit what we see especially in the standard histories of american photography as this division right into either fine art or vernacular and what i understood just simply looking at the at the wealth of material that was available was to take a step back and to try to look at it without the categories that we have in mind and try to impose those categories onto those images, but instead consider the image as a whole. that was my that was my approach at as a whole as in looking specifically at the material
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support and asking myself what function that image could have had for the maker where it would have circulated how it even got into the collection in the first place and i think those understanding those images as objects that existed within a specific time and a specific space really helps us get back to those specifically those local collections where they where they reside so i would probably go with local history documentation in a variety of material expressions if that if that makes sense so taking a step away from from the categories there. yeah. yeah. and maybe the categories, you know, there are so many different categories that we can give to to vernacular photography. it's yes huge huge output. um, i have this i have i'm gonna ask one of my own questions how unusual is album number 11 in your experience having done a lot of research on this
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material, and i'm i'm talking mainly i know that it's unusual and that it was donated in 1906 and then it doesn't include commercial images, but in terms of the type of political commentary, you know the kind of fairly explicit political commentary how typical is that? or how often did you see that sort of thing? i think in the in the shape of so what i consulted were a number of albums at the california historical society and at the bankrupt library, i know that there are albums and other places, which i haven't looked at so there might be more again material to discover, but from what i've seen album number 11 is quite unique in that in that approach you do see that political commentary for example on city hall as i showed earlier like 20 million dollars in cost and second to destroy. that was not an album number 11, but that's what you see written on the verso of individual
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prints and anonymous photographs. so you you come across those political comments and sarcastic comments if you will more often in individual prints, but in the really in this coherence sequence of an album album number 11 was the only one and and actually what's interesting with album number 11 is it does include a few? postcard commercial image images at the very very end. they seem quite unrelated to to the rest of the album. so the the sequence stands uninterrupted in in recounting this history in a critical in a critical way. yeah. interesting um, did this is a question from an audience member did politicians and or boosters ever used for nacular photos in their efforts at creating the phoenix rising narrative. mmm, i'm not sure to what extent
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they they would use vernacular photographs there again, but i i know that many of the the professional photographers who were also camera club members went into those cams. there was a model camp at ingleside for example, where they where they took staged images of inhabitants of the camp in on their beds or having lunch together or engaging in a number of outdoor activities, and those were purposefully put together in albums and these are found for example in the in the in a james phelan collection. that's at the bankrupt today. so we know that politicians to some extent would use those images and specifically that images that were compiled in albums to again show those around and have this year-end presentation of where you can recount how the effort is
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unfolding and point to specific details. yeah. yeah, so they would they definitely relied on this vibrant photographic activity of the time. here's another one. i think this is interesting. it's interesting. this is from an audience member. it's interesting to see the albums compile the album compilers critical response to disaster capitalism post-earthquake fire. have you or other historians looked at this critique and context with economic aftermaths of other major disasters such as katrina, for example oh, yes. yes i mmm there are a few critical studies that have come out since the 2010s and i i suppose you will have the link to my to my article available later on so that viewers have these these sources this bibliography also available. and yes there have been a number of comparisons that were drawn.
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i'm thinking specifically of a recent book by joanna jill on the san francisco earthquake and fire where she addresses the question of looting in photographs, which i did not get to are in my presentation, but we have this common representation in 1906 of well white people looking for souvenirs, right amid, the ruins whilst african-american or asian americans would according to the narrative. per se be looters right or perceived then as as looters according to this to this reading of of the images and and one of one of the historians actually made a link to katrina in 2005 where we had similar depictions of african-american. so this is 100 years after the san francisco earthquake and fire were in a very different context and yet those visual representations reoccur, right?
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yeah. that's right. yeah. yeah, i was thinking about i myself was thinking about the disaster that we're currently facing and kind of some of the correspondence is between the you know, the prevalence of photographic output now in the face of you know ordinary people facing this kind of extraordinary circumstance and taking pictures and what you're talking about. so it's interesting these kind of relationships between different disaster events karen. you're the video kind of stalled a little bit when you said the name of the historian or book about the anti-chinese camp discrimination. can you restate that? it was a question you were talking about the chinese experience in the refugee camps and you mentioned a historian i think. during the presentation. yes. i know i mentioned several. so let me get back to my notes. there is young chen and then there is seoujing zhou.
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i'm i can write those down in the chat at the end of that. okay, if that's useful and if not, i can definitely also compile like a short bibliography at the end that's available to to viewers here if it's not all in in the article, yeah. okay, and we will also be posting a blot just so the audience members know i'll be posting a blog either later today or tomorrow with a link to carolyn's article of the same topic which has as she mentioned her bibliography and we can carolyn you and i can discuss it and we can include some additional sources if need if need yes. yes. i think that would be great. so, please please look there people. i'm going to read this next question. let's see. um, oh, will your work on the california camera club come out and book form? yes. yes. i'm working on it.
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yes, right. yes, i so i i wrote my dissertation on the california camera club, and i defended it in 2018 and i'm currently working on transforming the the dissertation into a book but since the dissertation is about 600 pages. i really have to narrow it down, but the dissertation is actually available online. so if you want to have a look at the dissertation already you can just so and i think we can again include that in the bibliography if that's useful to people but yes, i definitely plan on publishing the work on the california camera club and book form. yeah. great. um let's see. oh and here's a question that asks who are which districts receive kodak cameras? so it sounded like maybe some equipment was purdue you know provided to people is that correct or does is that a misunderstation? yes, so i wouldn't know which
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specific districts i do know from from the the magazine camera craft were photographers published specifically their experience after after the earthquake that in all san francisco oakland alameda, the the photographic equipment was rented or sold for the most part, but i do know that through the professional support network that the california camera club had established since the 1890s support was pouring in actually from from across the country. so professional photographers would be sending in apparatus and cameras and papers and lenses and eastman kodak also donated 1,500, but i wouldn't know where exactly that material would go and how would be distributed. i know that some members of the california chemical managed this relief effort and sort of compiled this list of
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photographers that would be concerned but again as with so many of the events of this period there is little they're only very few traces of how this actually went about so, i'm sorry. i was no. yeah. yeah, it's hard to know but it's still very interesting that that happened. an audience member asks points out that the california genealogical society has a serious and important history. in the form of a book called rising from the ashes and this person is wondering just if you're aware of that in your research if that was something you came across. oh, no, i wasn't i wasn't. thank you. and another audience member just wants to mention the hw waters. i believe if they hj water. i'm not sure what the waters panorama. i'm sure familiar with it. you know of the so i'm sure you're familiar with that.
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um last rj rj waters are yes rj waters who actually won a competition that was launched i think by the san francisco call or the chronicle for the best photograph taken in san francisco on april 18th, 1907. so a year after the earthquake and and rj waters one that that prize. so yeah. those are those are great images. me um, i'm gonna ask one last question. i'm going to let you go. i we're looking forward to reading your book that comes out in august the fine arts museum's book, which you contributed to and i believe you're you're essay i think is about gentle right. it's a book about genda's relation with the california camera club. yeah. okay, great. i just wondering how did get this photographs of the earthquake fit or not fit into this official history. you showed a few and especially like the one that has the
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african-american people and the chinese people. i'm just curious how where you kind of place get that in that spectrum. mm-hmm. yeah, so obviously we're talking in terms of quality here. the the mass of photographs that we've seen also the photographs that we see in album number 11, obviously do not compare right in terms of composition and and quality, but other than that this is this is a very this is a very interesting question because the the gentle production during the earthquake and afterwards is quite intriguing to me because there are a number of photographs like the one i i showed here looking down sacramento street. let me just get back to that. photograph here we go. yes. um, this is this is very rare. i'm not aware that there are any other images like this one that that exist of the of the of the onlookers. he also took a photograph of a
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dead person, which i didn't include in the in the presentation, but which is i think the only one of a dead dead person which is surprising in the sense that we know that approximately three to five thousand people died and so one would assume that people walking around the city with their cameras would can be confronted with death, but there are very few photographs of dead bodies and so having arnold gennthe, take a photograph like this one is is again rare when we're looking at his photographs of ruins specifically the portals of the past this ties in with what other photographers were were doing and when you look at the later output specifically the photographs of chinatown of old chinatown this romanticizing look on the neighborhood also prior to the earthquake this
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nostalgia for a seemingly harmonious san francisco prior to the earthquake this very much ties in with booster publications. so can't this output is very ambiguous in in sense. yeah sometimes sometimes there's definitely an overlap with the booster imagery and sometimes there's definitely no overlap with that or with any of the the vernacular quote images we see yeah. drifting. thank you. well carolyn, thank you so much. i have a couple open questions here, but i think they're more comments. so i'm going to encourage you to look at them and i actually can share them with you after and we can respond. i really appreciate your talking with us today. thanks so much.
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hello, i'm stewart mclaurin president of the white house historical association. our program is ready to begin. please welcome the first lady of the united states, dr. jill biden. welcome to the first lady symposium hosted by the white


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