Three in the Tenderloin

Look up any travel information for San Francisco and ‘helpful’ people will tell you: avoid the Tenderloin! It’s not safe! There’s lots of.. stuff we don’t like!

Well, I live there. By choice. I won’t downplay the issues we face here: the living conditions on the streets are dire. They are maybe comparable to some other places in the world when you think of ‘squalor’. It’s not befitting of one of the richest cities, in one of the richest countries, in the world. But the squalor is there for a reason (historical and other neglect). There are few effective ways to ‘improve’ it (short of building more housing and providing more services), and certainly few that I personally support. I do not want to put more people behind bars simply for being so poor they no longer have a home. At the same time, many Tenderloin-dislikers have disingenuous reasons for singling out this neighborhood. We have different politics. Beyond politics, a fundamental disagreement about how we should treat people without homes.

Personally, I enjoy this neighborhood’s diversity and density. I have never lived somewhere less dense; the TL was literally the only place in the city that felt like home (in terms of taller buildings, and no of people). I don’t do well in the suburbs. I struggle mentally and emotionally with the suburbs. I am happy being among people. And buildings. And great food.

a scan of a black and white photograph of a person crossing a street in front of UC Law in San Francisco Civic Center

Sun set in the Civic Center area of San Francisco

a scan of a black and white photograph of a hotel neon sign in Civic Center San Francisco

This part of the city is full of historical hotels like these. Some of these are now student housing, others are homeless support housing. Others are still rented out by the day. The conditions are not always acceptable.

a scan of a black and white photograph of a person walking down a street in downtown San Francisco, there are streaks of light around the film negative scan

I have never lived too far from transit. So being in this neighborhood is great because I can go anywhere by transit, if I am not biking. Light streaks and dust on negatives on this frame, but I quite like the character it imparts.

I have not always been confident about taking film photos at night. But in rolling my own bulk film (Kentmere Pan 400) and developing and scanning at home, I feel a little more confident about it since it costs less, and I can see the results faster. These photos were taken with a Minolta Hi-Matic 7S II, with Kentmere 400, developed in D76 1:1 for 14 minutes, and scanned on a Noritsu LS-600.

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Adrianna Tan @skinnylatte
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