5 Picture Perfect Destinations for the Photography Lover
San Francisco has always been a vital international center for photography—since Ansel Adams, one of the city’s favorite sons, lived and worked here in the 1930s and, even earlier, with Eadweard Muybridge’s pioneering photo experiments in the area during the 1860s.
The opening of SFMOMA’s new John and Lisa Pritzker Center for Photography—the largest space devoted to the medium of any art museum in the country—marks another leap forward for the city’s photo pedigree. SFMOMA was among the first major museums to recognize photography as an art form and has since amassed a whopping collection of some 17,800 works dating from the advent of the medium in 1839 to today’s digital imaging.
The 15,000-square-foot Pritzker Center fills the majority of the new museum’s third floor and features both special exhibitions and selections that highlight key strengths of the collection: Western landscape photography (Carleton Watkins, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston); the finest holdings of Japanese photography outside of Japan; modernist and surreal photography (Alfred Stieglitz, Man Ray, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy); and documentary-style work (Diane Arbus, Rineke Dijkstra, David Goldblatt, Shomei Tomatsu).
Add to this a state-of-the-art interpretive gallery offering interactive experiences, as well as a revamped print study center for even deeper dives into the medium, and the photography aficionados has an overflowing dance card of artwork and ideas to explore.
Enthusiasts drawn to this mecca will also find a rich terrain of photo hotspots throughout the city, including:
Pier 24 Photography (Pier 24, The Embarcadero) This vast and alluring waterfront exhibition space houses a trove of fine art photography from the 4,000-piece Pilara Foundation collection (think 20th-century greats like Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand). Well worth the advance planning to book an appointment. How to get there: Short walk from Embarcadero BART station Hours: Monday through Friday by appointment Admission: Free Information: 415-512-7424
SF Camerawork (1011 Market St., Second Floor) The city’s oldest and most cutting-edge venue for photography, this alternative gallery remains at the heart of the ecosystem, showing work by best local and international artists since 1974. How to get there: Short walk from Civic Center BART station Hours: Tuesday through Friday, noon to 6 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 5 p.m.; and by appointment Admission: Free Information: 415-487-1011
Rayko Photo Center (428 Third St.) Another legendary alternative venue that not only presents interesting gallery exhibitions in its giant industrial warehouse space, but also offers classes and rentals of darkroom and photo equipment both state-of-the-art and vintage. How to get there: Walk from Montgomery BART station Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission: Free Information: 415-495-3773
Fraenkel Gallery (49 Geary St., #450) / FraenkelLAB (1632 Market St.) Influential within the high-end commercial art scene nationwide, this venerable and independent gallery mounts public exhibitions by favorites like Irving Penn, Alec Soth, Nan Goldin and Richard Misrach, to name a few. How to get there: Short walk from Montgomery BART station Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission: Free Information: 415-981-2661
Oakland Museum of California (1000 Oak St., Oakland) Dorothea Lange experts worldwide make the pilgrimage to Oakland, where the photographer’s personal archive lives. Selections from some 25,000 negatives, 6,000 vintage prints, field notes and personal memorabilia spanning her incredible career are always on view. How to get there: Short walk from Lake Merritt BART station Hours: Wednesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission: $15.95 Information: 510-318-8400