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  1. #1
    Christopher Nisperos's Avatar
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    Harvey Milk - Castro Camera

    I just saw the Sean Penn film, "Milk". Harvey Milk had a camera store. Anyone here know of any "known" photographers who might have frequented his shop (Mapplethorpe was east coast...Milk's shop was in San Francisco, just down the street —by the way— from what was arguably the best community darkroom in the United States of America).

    I know that this thread risks to die in the bud, but I was curious...thought I'd try.

  2. #2
    TheFlyingCamera's Avatar
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    Well, it is possible that Mapplethorpe went through his doors - he shot a part of his more risque portfolio in the San Francisco bay area (I know he did some shots over in the Marin Headlands WWII fortifications), but I'm not sure if Milk was already dead by the time he shot those. From what I understand, Milk's camera store was pretty much a neighborhood enterprise, and rather poorly run at that. Anyone passing through town at that time would most likely have shopped at Gasser's.

  3. #3
    Christopher Nisperos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheFlyingCamera View Post
    Well, it is possible that Mapplethorpe went through his doors - he shot a part of his more risque portfolio in the San Francisco bay area (I know he did some shots over in the Marin Headlands WWII fortifications), but I'm not sure if Milk was already dead by the time he shot those. From what I understand, Milk's camera store was pretty much a neighborhood enterprise, and rather poorly run at that. Anyone passing through town at that time would most likely have shopped at Gasser's.
    Ah, interesting, FC. I didn't know that Mapplethorpe did some of his work in the SF Bay Area. He surely would've visited Castro Street, but as you say, I'm not sure about the chronology. A couple other photographers comes to mind: Crawford Barton and Peter Berlin.

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    TheFlyingCamera's Avatar
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    Yes- he did a whole series of S/M photos featuring several gay couples in San Francisco. One of his major gallerists was in San Francisco at the time. I'm not sure if she is still alive or not - if she is, she might be able to provide some insight. If I recall correctly from one of the bios of Mapplethorpe I read, in his early years he was very un-technical and relied on his gallerists for things like supplies and guidance, and even at the end of his career, most of the magic of his prints was accomplished by labs. He knew how to express what he wanted done, and how the image should look, but lacked the technical know-how to execute it himself, so it was outsourced to labs or done by his assistants.

  5. #5

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    Jim Marshall lived 2 blocks away, I'm sure he probably went there a few times.

  6. #6
    Christopher Nisperos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheFlyingCamera View Post
    [Mapplethorpe] did a whole series of S/M photos . . . in San Francisco. One of his major gallerists was in San Francisco at the time. I'm not sure if she is still alive or not - if she is, she might be able to provide some insight. If I recall correctly... in his early years he was very un-technical and relied on his gallerists for ...supplies and guidance,...at the end of his career, most of the magic of his prints was accomplished by labs. He knew how to express what he wanted done, and how the image should look, but lacked the technical know-how to execute it himself, so it was outsourced to labs or done by his assistants.
    Scott, I have the feeling that Mapplethorpe wasn't the only photographer to operate in this way. I've heard similar stories about Herb Ritts, for example. I'm more jealous of Ritts' eye than Mapplethorpe's, and —while not at all to 'snipe' at Mapplethorpe's exceptional work— I've always been disturbed by the lack of contrast in his prints ... as though he didn't use a lenshood in the studio and the images suffered from flare veiling. They always look a bit "milky" to me (no Harvey pun intended!). OK, so I'm applying technical demands to Art ... go sue me. But, for me, this aspect distracts from the message he intended to convey, so it's important.

    Back to the San Francisco topic ..could the gallery have been Lee Witkin's? (I know that Witkin wasn't a 'she', but could it have been somebody who worked there?).


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  7. #7
    Christopher Nisperos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rorye View Post
    Jim Marshall lived 2 blocks away, I'm sure he probably went there a few times.
    Interesting. I used to own and manage a photo shop on Castro Street myself ... and before that, managed a camera store in the neighborhood for a major Bay Area chain. It's strange that I never bumped into Jim Marshall in either store.

    Anyway, thanks for the tidbit of info. Marshall was certainly around during the period that Harvey Milk's store was in business.. there's a good chance he'd have at least dropped-by, I'd guess.

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    Yep, he'd be hard guy to miss! Wonderful character. He's still on 16th and Castro. Where was your store?

  9. #9
    TheFlyingCamera's Avatar
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    Christopher- you could be right about it being Lee Witkin - it may have been one of his gallerists in NY who was a she, and promoted him out west as well.

  10. #10
    Poohblah's Avatar
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    The wikipedia article is fairly ambiguous about whether or not the store is still operating.

    Completely off-topic, but I recently watched a documentary on Milk. What a guy! And how San Fran loved him.

    Haven't watched the Sean Penn flick though.

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