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The Photo Issue: Changing faces, surprising places, and wild paces -- our third annual salute to Bay Area photography
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Photo of Grace by Josh Kirschenbaum

This is the third year of the Guardian's photography issue, and fittingly, three themes or commonalities are at the forefront.

First, there is an emphasis on urban landscape or place — while we've always only showcased work by Bay Area artists, this year a number of photographs overtly consider specific settings in SF and surrounding areas as part of their subject matter. Or, in the case of John Chiara and Aaron Rosenstreich, their chief subject.

Second, this issue often — though not always — looks like trans or queer spirit. Molly Decoudreaux, Jack Fulton, Katy Grannan and Josh Kirschenbaum all capture moments in the neverending gender play that is San Francisco life. The vast breadth and wildly different shadings of their collective vision is itself quite different from the East Coast trans visions of Diane Arbus and, later, the "Boston School" (David Armstrong, Nan Goldin, and the under-known Mark Morrisroe).

Third, there is a tension between now and then, thanks to a 1968 photo by Fulton, a contribution from archivist Robert Flynn Johnson, and the issue's more contemporary looks at local faces and places.

To borrow a phrase from SF Camerawork curator Chuck Mobley — who remodeled it from documentary filmmaker Thom Andersen, who in turn took it from porn director Fred Halsted — in the images that follow, San Francisco plays itself. It's a great performance. (Johnny Ray Huston)

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459-chiang.jpg

JAMES CHIANG

TITLE Untitled

BACKGROUND This image is from a recent collaboration with the kind folks of the San Francisco Food Bank.

SHOUT OUTS Josh Kirschenbaum's work has always been my primary source of photographic inspiration. Special thanks to the Academy of Art Photo Department, and the wonderfully talented students there for allowing the exigency of my work to expand beyond just the printed medium.

WEB www.jameschiang.com

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459-chiara.jpg

JOHN CHIARA

TITLE Bowdoin at Harkness, 2008

BACKGROUND I photograph cityscapes in a process that is part photography, part event, and part sculpture — an undertaking in apparatus and patience. Many times this process involves composing pictures from the inside of a large hand-built camera that is mounted on a flatbed trailer and produces large scale, one-of-a-kind, positive exposures.

SHOUT OUTS Artists I have worked with and those who have been inspirational are Jean Graf, P.K. Steffen, Michael Ninnan Hermann, Sue Ciriclio, Linda Flemming, Jim Goldberg, Stephen Goldstein, Larry Sultan, Richard Misrach, Marco Breuer, and Muriel Maffre .

SHOW "An Autobiography of the Bay Area, Parts 1 and 2," Sept. 1 through Oct. 31. SF Camerawork, 657 Mission, second floor, SF. (415) 512-2020. www.sfcamerawork.org.

WEB www.lightdark.com

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459-molly.jpg

MOLLY DECOUDREAUX

TITLE Go-Go Outfit, Lamp, and Heels (Mica Phelan), 2008

BACKGROUND This is from "The Creatives: Daytime Portraits From a Queer Nightlife," a series of portraits of San Francisco's DJs and drag queens in their personal spaces. Mica Phelan, a.k.a. "VivvyAnne ForeverMore," is the creator of Tiara Sensation and Beast clubs and the designer behind House of Horseface, as well as a method go-go dance master.

SHOWS "The Creatives," Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.