The period of the 1960s and 1970s in San Francisco usually brings to mind Vietnam War protests and girls with flowers in their hair. But as the photography exhibit at the RayKo Photo Center shows, the unruly decades also had a more conventional side — the side ruled by George Moscone, Joe Alioto and a young Dianne Feinstein.
The RayKo exhibit, “From Jimo’s Vault — San Francisco Politicos, People, and Places, 1960s to 1970s” on view through July 28, showcases nearly 100 black-and-white works by photographer Jimo Perini, an 81-year-old San Francisco native who loved to capture city life. Before Perini took the shots displayed at RayKo, he served as a combat photographer in World War II. Out of 60 colleagues in his photo unit, Perini was one of only three who made it back alive.
A major part of the exhibit consists of Perini’s pictures of the political arena. The faces depicted here are historically important, but may not always be familiar to post-1960s-generation viewers.
In one typical image of the era, for example, Alioto and his family parade through the streets, waving to the masses from a classic convertible. In another shot, a young black speaker makes an appearance. Without reading the title, few might recognize this slender man with a bushy beard as former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.
The exhibit presents Perini as a great portraitist. He not only follows his creed “to make people beautiful,” but captures his subjects at moments when they brim with energy and potential.
At the same time, Perini is a master of depicting cityscapes. One of the earliest pictures, taken in 1948, shows a cable car and an old fire truck crossing paths on a corner. There are also several great nostalgic shots taken in North Beach. In one, visitors to Calzone’s are spilling out onto Columbus Street. Right next to it is its polar opposite — an empty scene in front of City Lights.
Not all the photos are from San Francisco. Perini also goes back to Italy to explore his heritage. One image shows a narrow Italian street. There is nothing special about this street in the town of Lucca, except that it is his mother’s birthplace.
The show ends with a poster-size photograph called “Downpour.” Here, a cable car passes through an empty street lined by mid-century cars and washed by rain. Perini’s lens captures the drops of falling water and strange light that envelop the landscape.
From Jimo’s Vault
Where: RayKo Photo Center, 428 Third St., San Francisco
When: Noon to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; noon to 8 p.m. Friday-Sunday; closed Monday. Show closes July 28
Contact: (415) 495-3773 or www.raykophoto.com