a cool new website about creating community, art and a culture of storytelling.
Photographer Julie Michelle’s collaborative project features her photographs of San Franciscans, accompanied by their own stories, with a goal to “share the spirit and fascinating layers of this city through the words and faces of those who live here.”
elephant’s own contributing artist, Rachel Znerold, told her story this week:
San Francisco is the perfect place to be an artist. Creativity oozes from the cracks in the sidewalk and drifts in softly with the fog. Magic. It sticks to you like sand between your toes.
In San Francisco, people share their secrets with you. They let you take a swig of their sparkly pink wine on a hot day in Dolores Park. In San Francisco, you can never be overdressed, or be wearing too many necklaces at once.
In San Francisco, you eat bacon-maple donuts, taco-truck delights, or locally-grown-biodynamic-seasonal produce. You can smile at strangers and get complimentary hugs on a street corner. In San Francisco, people toss around words like “freegan,” “hipster” or “urban cowboy,” then throw their heads back and laugh, certain that they are instead a “post-hipster intellectual.”
In San Francisco, I can be a “wild and crazy artist” and climb up onto my Mission rooftop to caw out the triumphant Call Of The Hawk, or sip my fair-trade coffee in the sun. My hands are forever speckled with paint and fabric scraps cling to me always. Bliss.
I fell in love in San Francisco.
Seventy years ago, my Grandparents fell in love in San Francisco. It was the early 1940’s—she, a classical pianist and UC Berkeley grad; he an officer in the Presidio. I often daydream about the San Francisco my Grandma lived in. I make paintings of the single-screen movie theatre where my Grandparents first held hands and the trolley car she rode to work each day. I stroll past Saint Mary’s, where they were married, and afterward try to pick out which apartment was theirs.
“Washington and Jones. I had a gorgeous, sunny, top-floor apartment. In fact, I’m quite sure your grandfather married me for that apartment,” and she chuckles with a faraway look in her eye. It’s nice to know some things never change. A good apartment in San Francisco is worth falling in love for. Now I live in a gorgeous, sunny, top-floor apartment. Now I am in love.
People back home in Colorado think San Francisco is Avant Garde. On the edge. Glamorous. They think I am just a carefree artist, a dandelion floating in the wind, a gambler to try to make a life out of making art. They think I took a death-defying leap, moving to this strange city all alone.
They are right.
Except that you are never alone in San Francisco’s sweet embrace. Her hypnotic Siren Song inexplicably lures you into her cradling arms. You are surrounded. Her deep roots remind you that yours is not the only story, that yours is only one thread in the web that has been woven since time began, a web that will continue to grow until this little chunk of land falls into the ocean and is carried away by mystical sea creatures.
I grew up with Grandma’s rosy stories of her San Francisco—love letters to days gone by. Now, I am the one telling her stories of my San Francisco. Now she daydreams about the San Francisco I live in, wondering what has changed since she last sat in her favorite café atop Telegraph Hill. She has that faraway look in her eye. So I paint her a picture. Show her my San Francisco. Our San Francisco. The perfect place to be an artist.
You can see a slideshow of Rachel’s photo shoot on flickr.
Rachel Znerold is a painter, fashion designer, and performance artist who loves to play dress-up. All the clothes in her photo shoot are her own one-of-a-kind handmade designs. See more artwork and fashion, including her new paintings, “Postcards from SF,” on her website, or tweet her.