Then and Now

October 2015

Artist Janet Delaney revisits and rephotographs historic Flag Makers sign

Janet Delaney photographed San Francisco’s South of Market area in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a period of radical and wrenching change for the neighborhood. The focus of a major urban redevelopment project, it had recently seen some 4,000 residents and 700 businesses displaced to make room for the Moscone Convention Center and the subsequent developments that now surround it. Delaney, who lived nearby at the time, photographed her neighbors as they struggled to keep a foothold during these years of transformation.

One of her photographs, taken in 1982, depicts a sign for a flag makers shop painted on the brick wall of a building in a small cluster of structures between Howard and Natoma Streets that were surrounded by vacant lots. Thirteen years later, when SFMOMA moved to its current South of Market location, the sign became a familiar sight for staff and visitors, visible from windows at the back of the museum. When we reopen in 2016, it will be newly prominent along a public pedestrian corridor at the museum’s Howard Street entrance, as seen in the rendering below.

Rendering: courtesy Snøhetta and MIR

In December, Erin O’Toole, Baker Street Foundation Associate Curator of Photography, invited Delaney to rephotograph the sign, this time from inside SFMOMA’s construction site. Donning hard hats and oversized orange safety vests, the two relished the opportunity to contemplate the many ways in which the city has changed in the last 33 years and to marvel at how the fabric of the old becomes woven in with the new, reports O’Toole.

Erin O’Toole and Janet Delaney on the construction site; photo: Javier Roberto Carlos Briones.

The resulting photograph, reproduced here, captures the weathered Flag Makers sign framed by the site of a new transformation for the neighborhood.

Janet Delaney, Flag Makers sign from inside construction site for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 2014; © Janet Delaney.