Urban Studies

  • Pacific Steel Corporation, c1994
  • San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge - from Potrero Hill, c1994
  • Shipping Crane, c1994
  • Fuel Containers, c1994
  • Suspension Tower - Golden Gate Bridge, c1994
  • Russian Hill and Golden Gate Bridge, c1994
  • Russian Hill - Apartment Building No. 2, c1994
  • Russian Hill - Apartment Building No. 4, c1994
  • Adult Movies Rubber Goods, c1994
  • Rolling Stand - Psychiatric Hospital, c1994
  • Door Knob - Psychiatric Hospital, c1994
  • Numbered Cabinets - Psychiatric Hospital, c1994
Evidence.  Civilization.  Controlled chaos.  Industry.  Progress.  Creation and destruction.  Man imposes his will on the elements. The evolution of tribes.  The noble savage tamed.  Technology and community merged.  Cooperation on a massive scale. San Francisco; one of the world’s great urban centers; a major port city; a dark and mysterious and sublime metropolis; the clash of land and sea, East and West.  What are its secrets? These images are like evidence, stylistically similar to crime scene photography, or scientific documentation.  The subject matter could be categorized as ‘industrial design,’ or design that is regarded as purely functional and devoid of aesthetics.  But here the photographic treatment reveals the unexpected harmony and beauty in industrial artifacts.
Pacific Steel Corporation, c1994

Pacific Steel Corporation, c1994

Steel factory ruins, like an ancient temple, stand against a black sky in slanted rays of sunset. The deep shadows portend the demise of this moribund structure and the age it represents.

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge – from Potrero Hill, c1994

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge – from Potrero Hill, c1994

A dramatic and unique view of what, for many years, was the world’s longest suspension bridge. It was completed in 1936, six months before its more famous sibling, the Golden Gate Bridge. This view is now obscured by a modern baseball stadium at China Basin.

Shipping Crane, c1994

Shipping Crane, c1994

The towering structure of an antiquated, obsolete crane, once used in a bustling port for loading and unloading ship cargo. The strongly patterned geometric lines create 'urban abstraction' in this black and white photograph.

Fuel Containers, c1994

Fuel Containers, c1994

The fearsome kinetic power of inflammable liquid: flame, heat, combustion. These shimmering steel containers — shown here as industrial scale sculpture — are near cousins to the colossal steel sculptures of Richard Serra.

Suspension Tower – Golden Gate Bridge, c1994

Suspension Tower – Golden Gate Bridge, c1994

The Golden Gate Bridge — rightly seen as an industrial wonder of the modern world — is perhaps the world’s most iconic bridge. This treatment investigates the sacrifice and hidden costs, the toll exacted by such heroic feats of modernization.

Russian Hill and Golden Gate Bridge, c1994

Russian Hill and Golden Gate Bridge, c1994

This unusual perspective of San Francisco — taken from Telegraph Hill — captures the dramatic meeting of land, sea, urbanization, industry and innovation. The quaint settlement of Russian Hill features in the foreground, juxtaposed against the epic scale of Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands.

Russian Hill – Apartment Building No. 2, c1994

Russian Hill – Apartment Building No. 2, c1994

The graphic interplay of light and shadow make this photograph both evidence of urban living and abstract art.

Russian Hill – Apartment Building No. 4, c1994

Russian Hill – Apartment Building No. 4, c1994

The naked, single-source illumination gives this, otherwise quaint, Victorian apartment building a foreboding, gothic aspect. The photograph’s strong contrast makes the electric wiring seem almost like fencing.

Adult Movies Rubber Goods, c1994

Adult Movies Rubber Goods, c1994

Taken in the San Francisco's 'Tenderloin' district, this black and white photograph creates pop art from a vintage pornographic bookstore sign. Likewise it is an archival, documentary photograph describing this unseemly aspect of human sexuality.

Rolling Stand – Psychiatric Hospital, c1994

Rolling Stand – Psychiatric Hospital, c1994

Ordinary metal stand as sculptural object: the photographic treatment highlights the contrasting spirals of black tubing with the stand’s linear geometry as it resolves in elegant support curves. This black and white photograph makes the same observation that informs the basis for Donald Judd’s 'constructed objects.'

Door Knob – Psychiatric Hospital, c1994

Door Knob – Psychiatric Hospital, c1994

The oblong, shimmering brushed steel sphere and square set within the wood grain, makes an institutional doorknob into concept sculpture, and brings to mind the 'constructed objects' of Donald Judd.

Numbered Cabinets – Psychiatric Hospital, c1994

Numbered Cabinets – Psychiatric Hospital, c1994

The precise geometry of these cabinets is humanized by the organic, handwritten numerals. It could just as easily be installation art.

Julian Whatley