A Photographic Trip Back to Foggy 20th-Century San Francisco

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© 2018 Fred Lyon

Fred Lyon captured misty, melancholy San Francisco over a period of 75 years, and the results are absolutely captivating

Nonagenarian image-maker Fred Lyon hails from San Francisco and has spent much of his life photographing his beloved city. Lyon’s career has seen him cover many other significant cultural and political goings-on throughout America – he was a Navy photographer during the second World War and often shot White House press events – but it’s his captivating images of San Francisco that are in the spotlight now, with Princeton Architectural Press’ publication of San Francisco Noir. The beautiful photo-book, which is bound in sumptuous dark blue cloth, comprises Lyon’s photographs of the hilly city taken over 75 years.

Each of Lyon’s black and white shots is laden with mystery – a mood exacerbated by the persistent fog that often shrouds the streets of San Francisco. From the towering, geometric shapes of San Francisco’s houses to its smoggy coastline, enticing neon lights and dance halls abuzz with activity, Lyon’s publication presents a look at every facet of the city and its inhabitants. The shots are imbued with the romanticism of years gone by, and with San Francisco’s enthralling history: “There’s this cinematic glamour of an era when people dressed for dinner, contrasted with the fog-wrapped tinkle of melancholy jazz,” Lyon writes in the book’s introduction, “seen through a smoky whiskey haze.” Each photograph in San Francisco Noir boasts a singular allure, and a distinct ability to transport the viewer to Lyon’s city’s bygone era – a brand of gloomy-yet-delightful escapism that is a most enjoyable way to start off a mundane week.

San Francisco Noir by Fred Lyon is available now, published by Princeton Architectural Press.