“Die Sacramento Street hinab”

A large portion of my PhD dissertation on the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fires is devoted to the strange case of Dr. Arnold Genthe, a German philologist turned West Coast bohemian and star photographer. A star photographer in his own time, as he is mostly known for just two series of photographs – the 1906 disaster, and his candid shots of San Francisco’s Chinatown – nowadays; or, much rather, the images remain known, while Genthe himself has been all but forgotten. In an article for Rundbrief Fotografie, I try to solve the riddle of his ‘disappearance’ from the canon of artistic photography by re-tracing the publication history of his most iconic 1906 photograph, and the both aesthetic and contextual re-framing that led to its survival as a notable documentary photograph.