Provocative Photo Exhibit at City Hall Documents the Loneliness of the 'Loin

Categories: Art
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Brian Brophy

Photos of late night police activity, clothes drying outside apartment windows, solitary diners, and people living out of their RV are hardly the stuff of tourist guides, making the office of a city official an unlikely venue in which to exhibit them. Described as capturing San Francisco's "despondency," "stark harshness," and "uneasy isolation," these photos of the Tenderloin by Brian Brophy, aka The Tens, will be on display in the office of S.F. City Supervisor Jane Kim, who represents the neighborhood.

"I've been to a lot of art openings at City Hall," Brophy said. "And I always thought it would be an awesome venue, especially for my photos, with a San Francisco focus. I sent a message to Supervisor Kim about a print I was selling, and she suggested we do a show."

The photos in Brophy's Cash for Gold series are not flattering, but they are empathetic, Brophy living in the neighborhood himself. "I'm not out to paint any kind of picture of San Francisco except for what I see," Brophy said.

"I definitely thought about the fact that this is going in City Hall, but I tried not to let it affect my selections. I know that Supervisor Kim has seen my blog. I try not to exploit people, and I hope that comes across. I do love this city. I think she recognizes that." Indeed, an aide to the Representative said, "We are stoked to be supporting a photographer who has been doing great work in the Tenderloin for awhile."

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Brian Brophy


Brophy titled the show after his photo of a woman in front of a business offering "Cash for Gold," citing "the economics of the Tenderloin and the economics of poverty," as well as a reference to San Francisco's roots in the gold rush.

Another photo shows revelers at a semi-formal party lounging on an ornate balcony a few blocks from the Tenderloin. "You can be on one block and there are guys selling morphine on the street, and you can go one more block, and it's wealthy," Brophy said. "It shows that there's all this wealth and it tends to stay away from the tenderloin. There are wealthy people on the balcony enjoying the view while down on the street there's real stuff going on."

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Brian Brophy


Brophy worked under the pseudonym "The Tens" until his secret identity was inadvertently revealed in a review. His name aside, he's an open book and you can ask him anything via his website, although, if his FAQ is any indication, he might respond by telling you to go fuck yourself. But though he may be rough around the edges, he's a good guy: By day he's an attorney for AIDS Legal Referral Panel, and he's donating 30 percent of the proceeds from his exhibit to ALRP in recognition of their 30 years of providing pro bono legal services to people living with HIV/AIDS.

The opening reception for "Cash for Gold, Photos in and around the Tenderloin by The Tens" starts at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8 (and continues through March 6) at City Hall, 1 Doctor Carlton B Goodlett Place, Room 282, S.F. Admission is free.


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