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Wednesday, Mar 18 1998
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Local images and historical lore sneak in through the back door at the photography exhibits "Secret San Francisco" and "Harlem of the West: The Fillmore Jazz Archives." The former is a project modeled after Hungarian-born photographer Brassai's book The Secret Paris of the '30s, which captured Parisian opium addicts, whorehouse and gay bar regulars, janitors, and the homeless after the sun went down. Using a 4 by 5 press camera nearly as old as Brassai's, artists of the Sixth Street Photography Workshop set out last year under the direction of Hungarian-American photographer Tom Ferentz to snap similar shots of local nightlife in the Tenderloin, the Haight, North Beach, the Mission, South of Market, and other happening areas. The Fillmore pictures, meanwhile, reflect the jazz scene of the '40s, '50s, and '60s at long-gone Fillmore nightspots like Club Alabam and Jimbo's Bop City. Photos of artists and celebrities of the era lined the walls at Red Powell's Shine Parlor at 1552 Fillmore, where exhibit curator Lew Watts first saw them in 1990. When he returned a few months later, the photos and the store were gone, but Watts later found that New Chicago Barber Shop owner Reggie Pettis had rescued and stored the pictures in the back room of his business. When the photos were exhibited at City Hall last year, viewers offered Watts information about them and other archival prints, which have been added to "Harlem of the West." Both shows opens at noon Wednesday (a reception is held 6 p.m. Friday and the exhibits are up through April 18) at the San Francisco Art Commission Gallery, Ground Floor, 401 Van Ness (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is free; call 554-6080. (H.W.)

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Heather Wisner

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