San Francisco Noir: Photos from the ’40s and ’50s by Fred Lyons


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Fred Lyon is 92 years old and has photographed his hometown, San Francisco, for more than 70 years. His rich black-and-white scenes conjure a bygone era, when flash powder still existed, being alone with your thoughts was common, and the famed cable cars were public transportation for locals, rather than rolling tourist traps headed to Fisherman’s Wharf.

A large selection of these amazing photographs, so incongruous with today’s lifestyle, is being exhibited at the Leica Gallery in San Francisco through Oct. 21, and collectively they do the city’s history proud…

San Francisco, too, has undergone a reinvention lately, with the much-publicized arrival of residents and money from nearby Silicon Valley. But with a longer-term perspective than most of us have, Fred Lyon is not concerned for the future of his beloved city, saying “every city that’s really alive has to keep changing.”…

“What I really miss is the kids playing in the street,” he said. “That was a constant source of joy for me. I don’t know where they’ve gone. Their parents don’t allow them out. It just doesn’t happen. The kids were always great. They’d laugh at this silly guy with the camera, and know I really wanted to get in their games with them. And indeed I did.”

Lovely, talented work. If you’re in the northern Cali chunk of the Left Coast, get your butt to town to see Fred Lyon’s work.

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