The new medium of photography arrived in California just in time to witness the period of rapid, nearly unimaginable growth ushered in by the state’s official entry into the Union in 1850. Boomtowns: How Photography Shaped Los Angeles and San Francisco considers the significant role photography played in defining how the rest of the country saw California’s two most prominent cities.
Boomtowns looks at some of the earliest views of these places, who these cities were for, what forces shaped them, and how photography promoted and contributed to their growth. It also examines places where the competing interests of different groups led to layers of development and redevelopment—sites such as Union Station in Los Angeles, which was once Chinatown, or Washerwoman’s Lagoon in San Francisco, which became the Panama-Pacific International Exposition site and later the Marina District.
The exhibition features important photographic work from the California Historical Society’s permanent collection by both anonymous photographers and well-known artists such as Ansel Adams, Laura Adams Armer, Arnold Genthe, Eadweard Muybridge, Carleton Watkins, and Minor White.
From pictures of San Francisco on fire following the 1906 earthquake, to photographs taken in the 1920s of the nascent Hollywoodland housing development (which bequeathed the city its iconic sign), this exhibition draws exclusively from the California Historical Society’s extensive photographic holdings.