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29.11.2018

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Back to the 80s! Once again, the photographer’s new book takes us to the Reagan era of the mid eighties in San Francisco. In this case, however, the intention is not to take a retro look at those years, with its typical fashion, big hairdos and unavoidable ghetto blasters. Of course, all those kind of things are included as well; but the main thing Delaney is delivering is a testimony to change. At the time, the photographer was living in Mission District, a very Latino American area of the city. At the week-ends in particular, she would photograph public gatherings – from the annual Cinco de Mayo parade all the way to demonstrations for peace, work and justice, directed against the US invasion of Nicaragua. The streets and publics spaces were not just places where people would bump into each other on their way to work or shopping; but rather places where societal issues were publicly presented and discussed.  
Her pictures glowing with warm sunny colours, Delaney mingled with people on the street to capture scenes with demonstrators, trade fair visitors, cross dressers, union organisers, beauty pageant participants, dancers, salespeople, mothers, children, cowboys.
Delaney had been living in the city since 1967, observing daily life without really knowing at the time what would become of the picture series. “I’ve always seen San Francisco as a small place where big things happen,” the photographer remembers. She was not a tourist overwhelmed by the colourfulness of the streets; rather she had the necessary photographic eye that, like a seismograph, allowed her to sense and capture special moments of change. We can see, even more today, evidence of the transformation produced by an advanced gentrification that has remodelled San Francisco’s districts. Public Matters celebrates multi-culturism and the collective struggle for social justice. However, the photo book is certainly not a melancholic look into the past; rather it entices the viewer to ponder on the type of lively, public culture that would be necessary today to react to the current challenges arising from politics and social processes.  
(Ulrich Rüter)


Public Matters, Janet Delaney
120 pages, 79 colour pictures
29 x 22.8 cm, English
Mack Books
Three Young Women, 1985
Crowd Waiting, 1986
Dominique DiPrima on Stage, 1985
Virgin Mary in the Ice, 1984
Pawnshop, Mission Street, 1984
© Johanna Jetton

Janet Delaney

Born in Compton, California in 1952, Delaney moved to San Francisco in the late sixties and started documenting her neighbourhood in the seventies, capturing daily life there with a large format camera and colour film. She received a BFA from the San Francisco State University (1975) and an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute (1981). The book South of Market (also published by Mack) appeared in 2013, and also deals with changes happening in the SOMA District of San Francisco. Janet Delaney lives and works today in Berkeley, California.

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