The Streets of San Francisco: Photographing City Life



Arnold Genthe (1869 – 1942)

Born in Germany and trained and a classical scholar, Genthe immigrated to San Francisco in 1895, where he tutored the son of Baron and Baroness J. Henrich von Schroeder. He also bought a camera and taught himself photography.

Fascinated by life in Chinatown, Genthe photographed the teaming streets just a few blocks north of this kiosk. When photographing, Genthe sometimes hid his camera to allay his subject’s fear. To heighten the exoticness of his subject, Genthe would crop or remove Western elements from his images.

Much of his work was destroyed during the 1906 earthquake and fire. The approximately 200 surviving photographs of Chinatown are the most extensive record of one of the city’s most famous neighborhoods.

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Photographs courtesy of the Library of Congress