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San Francisco - Gerald and Marc Hoberman



Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

CERTAIN images of San Francisco are as familiar as those in our own back yard, so can the simple, but aptly-titled San Francisco, from Gerald and Marc Hoberman, offer anything more than a dozen or so other books on the subject? I think it can.

Indeed, you need go no further than the contents page for proof. There, you will find yourself standing at the foot of Nob Hill - a favourite with photographers.

But, strangely, the focal point of Hoberman's image is not, as you might expect, the rollercoaster nature of the hill, or even the cable car rails running in parallel lines from top to bottom.

No, it's the man crossing the road beneath an open umbrella. It's only then, you realise the sky is grey and the rails shiny with rain, making it intensely atmospheric and different from all the rest.

And just how many times, you might ask, can the Golden Gate Bridge be photographed without it becoming boring?

Here, you'll find 14 images which, out of the book's total of around 200, isn't, in fact, many.

Some, of course, will be familiar and reassuringly so, while others are taken from an entirely new perspective, giving it a distinction that is completely original.

But of the 14, my favourite, on page 121, is a night-time view when, modestly illuminated, it looks truly golden.

In fact, the whole of San Francisco is depicted here in beautiful and innovative colour photographs - the cable cars that are a must for every tourist; the Oakland-Bay Bridge, an engineering marvel to rival the Golden Gate, although sadly, it's often perceived as second-best; Coit Tower, or the nozzle of a fireman's hose - it's for you to decide and, of course, Alcatraz - the island prison that has been immortalized by Hollywood in countless films.

But here, too, is the lesser known San Francisco - the Dutch windmill in the north west corner of the Golden Gate Park; the shoe-shine man outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel, and an advertising kiosk with a fantasy hero leaping into action - all an intrinsic part of this world-famous and much-loved city by the Bay.

And if all this sounds a bit like a travelogue, you would be right, for turning the pages of 'San Francisco' is like discovering the city anew.

So, whether a seasoned, an aspiring or simply an armchair visitor, this book will delight from cover to cover.

Photograph by Lizzie Guilfoyle

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