Sutro Baths aquatic park, on the edge of San Francisco, was a great attraction for many years. Locals and tourists lounged in fresh and salt water pools, housed in a grand glass atrium. A casualty of its own success, the park closed after World War II, due to high maintenance costs. In the nineteen sixties, a fire destroyed many of the remaining structures, and what did not burn was torn down in the interest of public safety. What now remains is broken concrete in crumbling geometric shapes, once the foundation of the Baths.
I visited Sutro Baths for the first time when I came to San Francisco in the early nineties. The site made a powerful impression on me. Its strangely shaped concrete forms and rocky coastline seemed ancient, like ruins from an archeological dig. Since then, I’ve been fascinated by the place and photographed it hundreds of times. I take photographs at night, in low light conditions, where exposure times as long as sixty seconds are required to sufficiently form an image in camera. The effects of time are recorded -- crashing waves become mist, lights from airplanes and ships become streaks of light across the frame. Each night, the backdrop changes. Often, traces of unexpected events and motion are recorded.
Until recently, I visited the site alone, and photographed it absent of people. My focus was the landscape, the coastline and the demolished concrete ruins. In recent years, I’ve been looking at the place as a stage or backdrop for my imagination. At times, it appears very old to me and at other moments, strangely post-apocalyptic. I recently began to add theatrical elements to the images, inspired by memories of the San Francisco I knew twenty years ago. The city had a certain mystery. The diversity of cultures was vast and visible, a never ending street theatre. These images are a tribute to those people and that time of my life in the city.
Kenneth leaf was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 1988, he left Minneapolis with a 35mm camera and a motorcycle and, for thirty days, he explored and photographed the landscapes throughout the southwestern states before finally ending up in California. This journey ignited a passion for photography and began his study of photography both in Southern and Northern California. Today, he continues his studies in photography along with printmaking and sculpture at City College of San Francisco. Since 2001, his desire to explore and photograph has taken him to Peru, Mexico, Spain and Turkey. Kenneth presently divides his time between photography and sculpture where he carves organic abstract forms in alabaster and marble.