© Ray Potes
Hamburger Eyes:Inside Burgerworld; (Powerhouse Books)
Ray Potes, one of the head honchos for the San Francisco based-photo mag Hamburger Eyes, thinks of his bi-annual black and white zines as movies. “I can see the plot lines,” he said recently, sitting outside the darkrooms at Hamburger Eyes Photo Epicenter in the Mission. “Like here’s the slow part, here’s the fast part, and it ends badly or ends well.” If that’s the case, Powerhouse Books’ coffee table photography tome Hamburger Eyes: Inside Burgerworld is the seven-year-old crew’s debut feature length film. Shot by over a dozen lensmen ranging from Potes, his brother David, and regular Hamburger contributor Stefan Simikich to respected elders Michael Jang, Ted Pushinsky, and Bill Daniel, among others, this gripping flick is a street-wise dramady with flashes of action, romance, and mystery.
It opens with a limo driver dressed as Elvis, crouched spread eagle with a salesman’s sneer as he beacons the camera to take a ride. It ends with a dozing Eagles fan slumped on Muni, face frozen a slack-jawed aria. Between the wacky and the weary are 200 pages of plotlines you’d otherwise miss in a blink. Men jump off skateboards, over chain-link fences, between squares of a chess board, and from the roof of a house that looks ten stories high into pool that seems the size of a sandbox. Women flex sculpted biceps or kick their flabby gams skyward on the hood of a cop car. Dogs snarl, riots rage, potatoes fry, drunks snooze, cars flame, and a young David Hasselhoff is both dazed and confused. Foreshadowing -- a sign reading “It’s going to get worse” -- leads, further down the line, to scenes of a dude getting clocked in the jaw or Willie Brown taking notes by a near-naked hippie. Borders defining eras, nations, and genders fade. Punk rock is both 1978 and 2008. A clown can offer smiles or a case of the creeps. A mightily wrinkled face hosts both a scraggly mustache and dainty hoop earrings. When the final frames flicker to a close, you’re left with Hamburger’s colliding narratives of the hectic yet humorous reality that is urban existence. -- Jennifer Maerz