Johnnie Chatman, a student from the New York School of Visual Arts, showcases his photography from his recent project ‘Between the Sea & the City'.
When I grew up in the Los Angeles suburbs, war seemed as much a non-existent reality as the icy tundra of Antarctica. It was something that existed on TV, in faraway lands. But upon arriving in San Francisco as a young adult in 2011, I was for the first time confronted directly with war’s immediacy and implications. Although ‘San Francisco’ and ‘the military’ are rarely put together in a sentence, the city has one of the best-preserved World War II landscapes in the lower 48 states. Hidden around the bay coastline like a treasure map lay a series of coastal artillery batteries, forts and lookouts built to protect the bay from foreign threats. With the outbreak of World War II and the deteriorating diplomatic relationship with Japan, the bay was primed for war. As soldiers stood with their eyes on the horizon, missiles were primed and long-range artillery guns adjusted their barrels towards the sea. But the war ended, and the battle never came. No lives were lost, and no blood stained the shores. The installations were decommissioned and were left to deteriorate between the sea and the city as a silent reminder to how close we came to confrontation. My photographs of these forgotten facilities reveal a side of the Bay Area on the fringe of our day-to-day lives. Military installations built, stationed and manned 70 years ago reveal a history that will soon cease in living memory to become something we learn about only in history books and deep internet dives. In these locations, nature and structure compete for the light.
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At about midnight last Thursday, I got off the #1 bus in the Outer Richmond and noticed something was ... off. The fog seemed ominously dark above me, but Geary was lit up as normal. Turning towards my house, I realized that a power outage had caused a blackout from 32nd to 44th, between Balboa and Geary Ave. The fog was so thick that it made the darkness seem to reach out for me on the eerie walk towards my house.
It was as if a dome had been placed over the Outer Richmond. No candles, no flashlights, no noise, not much of anything except faint glow of the city against the fog, and eventually, the isolated beams of the emergency crews. I grabbed a thicker coat and my camera in an attempt to document such a rare, unsettling evening...."
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