Urban photography by Brad Evans

“A place to view and think about photography”

June 16th, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized

Yesterday I had a most amazing experience viewing photography in an environment that was unlike any other. That was at the Pilara Foundation’s Pier 24 warehouse, a newly opened 28,000 square foot structure dedicated to showing photography in a distraction-free space conducive to contemplation. The space is the largest in the US dedicated to the presentation of photography.

The warehouse at Pier 24 sits inconspicuously under the Bay Bridge and looks like any one of the other warehouses along the Embarcadero.┬áBut step inside and you are immediately greeted with nine Diane Arbus prints arranged in a grid and several of Richard Avedon’s large prints from his In the American West series next to the check-in counter. Right from the beginning you knew you were about to experience something special.

There are more than 2,200 prints in the Foundation’s collection of which a subset are on display. While there, I viewed prints from Richard Avedon, Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand, Mike Disfarmer, Lewis Hine, Alec Soth, Paul Strand, Jeff Wall, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Robert Adams, Robert Frank, Edward Burtynsky, Larry Sultan, Eadweard Muybridge, Dorthea Lange, Walker Evans, Todd Hido Richard Misrach, and Larry Clark. Being from memory I know I’ve missed a few in that list. What’s really great, and not something you at first appreciate, is that you are one of only 15 visitors viewing the exhibition in the enormous space. The collection is most definitely world class and unlike any other.

Of all the photographs on display, I came away most moved by a large set of photos from Larry Clark’s documentary about growing up in Tulsa with his friends; which then was later published as his book Tulsa. Photos were displayed on four walls of a medium sized space, where the beginning and end of each wall was marked with a photo of Clark himself. Even being familiar with his book, I still came away thinking more about his life and personal experiences in Tulsa’s teen drug culture.

The huge collection of photographs come from San Francisco native Andrew Pilara. He has been assembling his collection over the last six years after viewing the Diane Arbus exhibition at SF MOMA and then buying one of her prints at a local gallery.  The space itself has been three years in the making and began with the Pilara Foundation securing a 10 year lease from the San Francisco Port Commission. A massive rehabilitation effort to bring the structure up to seismic safety standards was needed right from the beginning before interior improvements could be made. The warehouse had been abandoned since 1980 and needed a lot of renovation. The space is now beautiful and perfect for viewing great photographic works.

Admission is by reservation only where both self-guided and guided tours are available. There is no charge. I recommend starting with a guided tour to learn about the Foundation and its goals, as well as having an opportunity to learn about the photographs. My tour was conducted by Christopher McCall who is the the director of the foundation. For sure I’ll be going back for many more times; the experience was that great!

  1. 7 Responses to ““A place to view and think about photography””

  2. By Donald Kinney on Jun 18, 2010

    Oh wow!
    But pinch me — maybe I am still asleep and have just dreamt this…

  3. By Donald Kinney on Jun 19, 2010

    Me again —
    Wanted to mention that I saw on the Pier24 website that they will be closed starting July 16 until they open with a new exhibit in September.

  4. By Brad on Jun 19, 2010

    Yeah, Don that one is no doubt worth checking out as well. There is so much i the collection that was not shown during the current exhibition.

    Probably a good idea to reserve a time slot for that as soon as they’re open.

  5. By Karl on Jun 20, 2010

    Nice! Seems like an incredible gallery and very generous of them to do so no-charge, even with a guide. Wow!

    In my city we have this ghetto little art gallery/museum that even if you take your time you can get through it in under 30 minutes AND they have a no photography rule. Which in itself is a bit of a PITA but the offset is there usually isn’t anything to photograph on disply anyway.

  6. By John on Jun 29, 2010

    I had time to re-visit again yesterday and man the collection (which only 15% is on display right now) is a stunner. So many awesome photographs but one of my favorites was Robert Adams and his Colorado photographs. But there was so many to choose from that I was in visual overload and wanted more. There was one Cibachrome print portrait of a girl that for the life of me I can’t remember the photographer’s name (do you remember – it’s this one 2nd to the last from the right?). It was just stunning and that print was my definite favorite without a doubt.

  7. By Brad on Jun 29, 2010

    Yeah John, I hear you on the visual overload. Really wish I scheduled another visit before the exhibition ends. Drawing a blank on the Cibachrome – was mentioned, but there’s so much to absorb.

  8. By Brandon on Sep 22, 2010

    I went today, to see the new exhibition. They told me it would run until February, then they would pull at exhibition out of the “permanent collection” (which is what the first exhibit was from).

    I can only say: that place is amazing. If you love photography, find some time to go.

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