In 2009, I made a trilogy of books about Mission Street in San Francisco. My walk along Mission Street echoed a former vision of Mission Street that is still barely visible in glimpses: a shopping mecca that extended a full mile along Mission Street from the Armory at 14th and Mission to Cesar Chavez Street, once called Army Street. That advertising campaign to attract shoppers and movie goers was called “The Mission Miracle Mile”, so I ironically called my book project “The Mission Miracle Mile Trilogy”.
In the design and conceptualization I emphasized the time-based aspect of books. My narrative reflects a cinematic approach filling the pages with full bleed Photoshop collage that morphs and bends the photographic space in a temporal way – ghost images, superimposed images translate into a kind of time element that references both historical factors and implies movement through the frame/page.
From one page to the next a narrative grows out of the silent sequence of images with radically shifting POV, from highly detailed macro images to crowded street scenes. The narrative reveals itself to be a tale of escape from the dirty deals of 16th and Mission where a stranger approaches saying, “Late night satellite?” (meaning, do you want to buy a fake bus transfer or a fake long distance phone number?), and then offers a bag of heavily cut blow instead. Passing through the center of the mile, where the ghost of the glittering shopping street still lurks in the name of a corner convenience store called ‘The Center of the Mile’. To end up elevated above the city, guided by a lone piper in the outer Mission. The narrative is historical and documentary, but also epic and surreally packed with the symbolism of anxiety and dreams of personal redemption.
Like a song the street flows in one general direction and it also has breaks (cross streets) and repetitive elements and themes. Each book of the trilogy repeats thematic elements. This is apparent when the books are viewed as a tableau and we see that certain images emerge as symbols – dogs, water, concrete, corn. Sometimes the detail, the accumulation of patina tells a story of aging and slow decay – the dark side of time.
2014 update: A real estate development company has seized on the “Mission Miracle Mile” concept and they are sincere in wanting to recreate that vision. (Too bad the area is not “clean” enough to attract shoppers.) After establishing their anchor at 21st and Mission with the Vanguard Real Estate office, they formed a “community benefits district” called “Mission Miracle Mile, Inc.”. Their first act of “renewal” is to install a massive video surveillance system that covers Mission Street from 21st to 22nd.