Photography — At Pier 24 San Francisco

Written by Pat Meier-Johnson

Pier 24 Photography gallery in San Francisco challenges the way you see your environment. But is it art? Our Pat Meier-Johnson takes you through the fascinating world of photography. — From quick snaps to excruciating technical detail, Pier 24 Photography in San Francisco exhibits life through photos. It is truly a haven for photography.

Photo by Russ Johnson

Photo credit: Russ Johnson

Back in 2010 on one particular day, more than a million snapshots were uploaded to Flickr … and they were public, available for anyone to view and even print. That’s the focus of one of the exhibits in A Sense of Place at San Francisco’s Pier 24 Photography gallery. We waded through a small hill of 350,000 snapshots called 24 Hours in Photos — an installation by Erik Kessel of silly, poignant, uncomfortable and even artistic personal pictures that people all over the planet posted online during a 24-hour period. It’s easy peasy. Shoot a snap and post it online and anyone anywhere can see a picture of your aunt, your graduating class, even your prize fish, within minutes of your having shot it (the picture, not the fish).

Snap, Post and Display to painstaking photographic tableau

Just a few steps away from the hill of snapshots was a photo mural that acted like a vortex, sucking me into a first-hand view of F1 racing action. It was a 20-foot-wide photo so super-crisp and ultra-perfect, it could not have been accomplished in a single shot … and it wasn’t.

F1 Pit Stop III by Andreas Gursky. Photo courtesy of Pier 24 Photography

F1 Pit Stop III by Andreas Gursky. Photo courtesy: Pier 24 Photography

In fact, F1 Pit Stop III is an assembly of photos from F1 races around the world, created by one of the highest-paid photographers in the business, Andreas Gursky, whose works have sold for as high as $4.3 million. (I leave it to you dear reader to decide if it was worth that much.) Every detail, every camera-wielding fan in the F1 race track audience, every worker in the pit, even the supermodel and race car driver placed in the middle are perfect. It is as though time stopped in one of those sci-fi movies where everything is frozen in one intergalactic flash.

The same can be said of another huge tableau on display: a New York street scene by Jeff Walls, In Front of a Nightclub, another huge work. But rather than an assembly of parts this was recreated in the photographer’s studio. That’s the short and long of it. Other exhibits focus on scenes of first-time shots of far-off pyramids. Or shots of emerging American suburbia. I was particularly interested in scenes shot by Lee Friedlander — entirely from inside his car. The collection is called America by Car. Friedlander worked his car into the composition, allowing the rearview mirror to reflect and enhance what he saw, or he positioned the windshield to frame the view and by doing so made even the most-ordinary scenes seem a bit special.

A Sense of Place is on display through May 2014 at Pier 24 Photography — at Pier 24, the Embarcadero, San Francisco (not far from the base of the Bay Bridge). 10:00 a.m. – 5:15 p.m., Monday – Friday. Admission is free but reservations are required. That’s one of the nice things. The scheduling, while a bit of a bother, pays off because it gives you space to move around without dealing with crowds.

For, I’m Pat Meier-Johnson.

Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Pat Meier-Johnson is a senior commentator at covering the nexus of technology and art. Look for her stories, interviews, videos and photos about the people and events where digital and analog creative arts meet. Contact her at