Photographic Memory

Know your local history and enjoy learning it! "Harvey Milk, Second Sight: Photographs From the Harvey Milk/Scott Smith Archives" traces the life of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician in America. Most of the photographs, taken by Milk and his close friend Daniel Nicoletta (also an important gay activist), document Milk coming into adulthood in New York City and cover the period up to his tragic assassination at San Francisco's City Hall in 1978. Scott Smith captures a wonderfully languid moment as Milk's lover Smith lies on his side on a bed, his body crossing the mattress horizontally. The hazy focus of the image -- the product of a single orange light source -- makes the subject appear to be simultaneously floating up from and melting down into the covers of the bed.

Unidentified Houseguest on the Floor of Harvey Milk and Scott Smith's Apartment at 575 Castro Street shows, well, an unidentified houseguest sleeping soundly on the floor of Milk and Smith's apartment. The morning light draws our attention to the subject and his ad hoc bedding, and everything in the photo, the guest included, is in a state of elegant undress. It's a very peaceful disheveling, though -- the guest having gently kicked the blanket down in his sleep to reveal the beautiful lines of his shoulders and back. Like many of the other photographs, Unidentified Houseguest captures the unmistakable transcendence that may suddenly be born from seemingly ordinary daily lives. "Harvey Milk, Second Sight" is on display through Dec. 19 at the San Francisco Art Commission Gallery, 800 Chestnut (at Jones), S.F.; call 749-4510.

-- Marcy Freedman

 
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