When I was a little girl in the early 50’s, and then later when my family returned to the Bay Area in the late 60’s, one of the constants was the San Francisco Transbay Terminal. Built in 1939 by the famous local architect Timothy L. Pflueger, it was a huge concrete building where the trains from East Bay and then in 1959 buses from the extended Bay Area would arrive. Even long distance transportation such as Greyhound busses and Amtrak trains would pull up at the terminal. Then all you had to do was walk outside, and climb aboard one of the various forms of public transit available in the City. The East Bay cities had their transit companies and S.F. had another. But all of them worked remarkably seamlessly together. Not flawlessly, mind you, but it was a piece of cake to transfer from one system to another.
My husband and I left the Bay Area for jobs when we got married at the end of 1974. 42 years later we returned (2016), only to visibly discover what we knew from the news: the 1939 Terminal had been demolished and the new San Francisco Transbay Transit Center had been built. This was a HUGE change as you can see below. I took this photo as friends and I were inching our way towards the on-ramp for the Bay Bridge about 2 months ago. We had gone into the City to see a play, and there seemed to be an accident blocking one access to the bridge. At one point it took us half an hour to advance 5 blocks, so it was a long trip home. We laughed, we joked, we carried on, and of course I used the opportunity to take photos by leaning out the window.
Here is one photograph of the new Transit Center taken just as we entered under the overpass, and looking behind us. (It’s now named the Sales Force Transit Center). Look for the garage entrance (Enter and Do Not Enter) in the lower right of the photograph, then follow upward on the slant toward the windows and you will see the steel grid of the canopy reflected.
Yellow dandelion flowers turn into these beautiful dandelion “puffs,” which are their seed stage. As children we used to pick these, make a wish, and then blow. Like birthday candles, we thought that if we could blow all the seeds off the puff in one blow, we would get our wish.
Does this image make you a little dizzy? Or perhaps off balance? It should. Yet it is merely a photo of a wrought iron railing. The difference is the reference point. We are used to making solid, constant things our reference points. In this case you would probably not be at all uneasy if I had taken the photo with the building straight on the horizontal and thus made the railing diagonal. That is, after all, how we stand when we look at things. But by making the bottom of the railing horizontal to the bottom of the picture frame (even if it doesn’t appear that way because on the descent of the steps), it makes you feel rather topsy turvy.
I have taken photographs for years. Decades even. But I now find that I have the time and the energy to start learning the craft seriously. Even with much technical skill to learn, however, there is one thing I have always known: that photography, as is true of any art form, must elicit an emotional response from the viewer. It may be awe, discomfort, outrage, sorrow, amazement, a feeling of being drawn in to the photograph, or even that sharp intake of breath that signifies absolute wonder. But a feeling must exist in the viewer or otherwise to them, it is just a picture. Not everyone will necessarily react the same way to the same work of art, or even to the same artist. But if a photograph doesn’t move someone, then it remains an object, not art.
Painters, musicians, writers, potters, photographers, dancers – at a fundamental level, we are all trying to do the same thing. We are all trying to get good enough at our craft to convey what we feel when we encounter the world.