Tenderloin Reveals a Neighborhood's Humanity

Mark Ellinger spent six years living on the streets, addicted to heroin. When he shot some bad dope and ended up in the hospital for two and a half months, he resolved that things would be different when he got out.

“It was a decision I made that whatever door opens, I was going to walk through it,” he said. “That was my modus operandi, and it worked. “

The door that opened was getting a digital camera from a neighbor who didn't want it anymore. Ellinger, who had studied at the S.F. Art Institute when he moved here from Ohio, lived in a single room occupancy hotel in the Tenderloin. When he returned from the hospital, he started taking pictures of the neighborhood, particularly the Beaux Arts architecture .

“The perspective that I started working on and continue working from is to look past the veneer of crime and decay,” he said. “Look up, actually. Look up above the street level, because that's where you'll see the architect's original intent.”

Ellinger started a blog, Up from the Deep. http://upfromthedeep.com/ This is how director and writer Annie Elias found him when she sought people to interview for a documentary play for the Cutting Ball Theater, about the neighborhood where it resides — the Tenderloin.

The result, Tenderloin, has its opening tonight (Friday) at Exit on Taylor.

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