Between the Lines

Uptown, Downtown

“Uptown, Downtown”

While Up from the Deep is mostly about the architecture and history of San Francisco’s inner city, it is also a personal document of inner transformation and discovery. Those who wish to have a full understanding of this project’s genesis and evolution will find enlightenment in the preface.


Filed under Messages

5 responses to “Between the Lines

  1. Fred

    Mark –

    Your astoundingly haunting and gorgeous photographs and moving prose go together like a hand in glove. I was unaware that you had spent so much time on the streets and had suffered so much in the way of personal difficulties and challenges. It’s clear that you have first hand experience with this lifestyle – there’s no way that an “outsider” could have handled this with such sensitivity and detail – and obvious love. I don’t know whether I more enjoy the stunning skies, unique architecture, or expressive faces. Each photo tells a story that you’ve managed to capture and the viewer can only imagine. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that like many others, I walk briskly through these neighborhoods and avoid eye contact with their residents. Although there have been times when I’ve stopped to gaze at some of the fascinating building facades or faded signage, I’m always in a hurry to my destination (usually Union Square or the Financial District) and consider the “in between” neighborhoods annoying voids to have to rush through. I grew up in S.F.’s Sunset District. We were a working class family and I was raised to believe that newer is better and that “those” neighborhoods were to be purged and recycled. I remember when the Fox Theater was razed and how excited I was about the project. Imagine – a dirty old theater was going to be replaced by an exciting skyscraper! What a thrill! I also remember riding on the bus through the Western Addition rejoicing as I watched the wrecking balls destroy block after block of irreplaceable Victorians – ahh… new housing projects and wide boulevards!! I totally bought into the propaganda that the newspapers and other media featured. The NEW San Francisco – out with those worthless and tiered buildings and people and in with a BRAVE NEW WORLD!

    …and I wasn’t even a teenager yet…

    Happily, my eyes were opened to the falseness of all this years ago. Your moving stories, captured so beautifully in prose and imagery, have further convinced me that the essence of these neighborhoods do deserve to be preserved.

    Thank you, Mark.

    • Wow! Thank you for your extremely kind and thoughtful commentary, Fred. Right now it’s late and I’m tired, so I can’t give your comments a proper response, but I’ll try to do so sometime tomorrow.


  2. Jack

    Thank you, Mark.
    Yes, gratitude is a good perspective to maintain and I’ll look at that in myself.
    I’ll continue to follow your work; and, will look you up when I come back to SF!
    Take care and have fun,

  3. Jack

    Hi !

    Your photographs tell, well, a story that needs to be told and listened to – THANKS!
    If you don’t mind too much, I have a personal type question to ask you, because I’ve been where you were and am now struggling with what can be best defined as “nostalgia” for my life as a hope-to-die drug addict in the Tenderloin back from 1994-2000 (I’ve been clean since 2/28/02, living back in NOLA). It’s a real pulling either at my heart or at my residual need for self-destruction: or, both, that has kept calling to me over the last nine years. Yeah, I’ve left my heart in San Francisco and it feels like my soul in the Tenderloin.
    So, anyway, my question: If you have this too, then how do you deal with it?
    BTW, your work has not triggered these feelings. It has had the opposite effect, raising my conscious to a higher level as I see the beauty and the legacy of these, our monuments, in your photographs.

    • First, my sincere thanks to you for your comments, Jack. Honestly, I’ve (thankfully!) never had to deal with that tugging to use again. I think this is primarily because I have such clear memories of what a living hell it was to be addicted. Also, because my work has been focused on Sixth Street and the Tenderloin, I am constantly reminded of this by the human wreckage with which I come into contact nearly every day.

      You may have left your heart in San Francisco, but the fact that you’re staying clean tells me that you’re still the master of your soul.

      Take care and keep in touch. If ever you return to SF, I hope you’ll look me up.


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