I discovered San Francisco in 1969 thanks to an Electronics Firm in Washington D.C. They sent me out here on a five month project. When it was over, I went back east, quit my job, said goodbye to my family in New Jersey, bought a VW Bus, and headed west to a new life.
Everything in S.F. was so much more relaxed, informal, untamed. exciting! I fell in love with the City-By-The-Bay. My new lifestyle allowed plenty of time for travel, and California is blessed with some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. I've driven from coast to coast thirteen times, and passed through 46 of the 50 United States. I still drive that VW Bus!
In 1972 I spent 5 months travelling around Europe and North Africa. When I returned to SF, the Castro District was beginning to evolve into the Gay Neighborhood that it is today. That was where I wanted to live. My first apartment in the Castro was on 17th Street, about 3 blocks uphill to the west from Castro and Market. San Francisco's many hills are responsible for the callipygian appearance of many of its residents.
At about that time, I met FRANK, my soulmate, and we lived together until 1980. Under his guidance, I developed an interest in Photography. I enjoyed it so much that I studied photography at City College for the next three years. Coincidentally, a new photo store named "CASTRO CAMERA" was opened on Castro Street by a man named HARVEY MILK and his partner SCOTT SMITH. They had recently migrated here from New York.
Frank and I moved to Henry Street, (between 14th and 15th and a few doors east of Castro) in 1976. Henry is a 2 block long, quiet, tree-lined residential neighborhood of its own. We had a nice comfortable one-bedroom second-floor apartment for $155 per month. There was a nice view from our windows, and a garden in the yard. I converted the back porch into a darkroom, and there was a large empty room in the basement that I used for a studio. We knew all the neighbors and we all got along fine. Leon and Marcia, in their sixties, had the other apartment on our floor. He worked nights and she was lonely and drank too much. She'd hear us coming up the stairs and stick her head out: "Frank! Don! Would you run to the corner store for me?" She wanted vodka. That was the easy part. Getting away without having to drink with her was the hard part. Downstairs were two gay couples and next door lived the guys who made the movie "WORD IS OUT", a documentary about the gay movement. Upstairs from them were Bo and Dennis, and Casey. Bo was the neighborhood authority on exotic pets, an amateur vet. His household included 2 huge pythons, a rattlesnake, monitor lizard, Lorelei the squawking parrot, and assorted tarantulas and scorpions.
I have such fond memories of Henry Street. There was always a warm and cozy feeling to our house, a pot of coffee on the stove, and always company! Here are a couple shots of our bedroom which Frank referred to as the "LOVE CHAMBER"! I guess you could say we were into 'clutter'. There was hardly a square foot of wall space in any room of the house that wasn't covered with something.
Frank and I decided to separate in 1980 and he moved to Tucson, where he still lives today. We are still best friends and soul mates. In 1982 I was forced to move from Henry Street. My new home on Collingwood Street, around the corner from 18th and Castro, was a lovely place but didn't have space for a darkroom. This seriously affected my photographic pursuits. You see, the photographer-as-artist needs the intimate control over production of his images that can only come from within. Photomat doesn't quite meet the criteria! Fortunately for me, I had recently bought a Video Camera, and my focus shifted in that direction. I often took the camera to the streets and I was pretty much the only video man there. Now that I have a good Macintosh computer, I'm beginning to realize that dream I had so many years ago; to see photography merge with the computer; to have control over image manipulation that photographers in the darkroom can only dream of.