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Vesuvio Café in North Beach, San Francisco.

Photographs in this collection have been produced by Heather Do, Connor Rowe, Kathleen Markham, Alison Lowrie, Kenneth Chiu, Katie Salmond, Diana Chavez, Elena Toffalori, Ashley Vink, Aimee O'Dea, Liz Dolinar, Allison Barden, Justine Khoury, Daniele Alaniz-Roux, and Justin Thach at the request of Michael Ashley for the UC Berkeley Anthropology 136e class, Spring 2011. The purpose was to digitally document the cultural heritage of Vesuvio Café to not only document the cultural history embeded into the ageless walls but also to connect spatially the symbiotic relationship that preserves the legacy of beatnik culture today.

Vesuvio Cafe, (37.79757°N 122.40625°W), located in the North Beach region of San Francisco Bay, is a cultural bastion preserving the cultural heritage of bohemian era and the beatnik culture that generated its establishment by Henri Lenoir in 1949 and made infamous by the renown authors such as Jack Kerouac from which the adjacent alley is named. The building in which the bar is housed is otherwise known as the Cavalri building built in 1913 and expanded to a second story in 1918 and designed by Zanolini with Italian Renaissance revival elements. The transient existence of these unkempt literary members and their constituents is reflected in the liminal location of the former saloon restaurant at the border between the vagrant Chinese- Italian communities; by 1970[1], most of the diverse cultures regressed into economical housing . Vesuvio Café despite its rich history back to the 1950’s , are not historically preserved site; in fact, they were rented until 1999[2] by managers Chris and Janet Clyde, whose proprietary hopes to protect the building from other commercial interest. Over the years, Vesuvio has undergone its share of renovations and damages such as the 1999 retrofitting for earthquake safety or even the 1973 damage dealt to the building by an errant bus[3]. Over the years, the "I'll never forget after the retro-fitting, one man came in, he was about 55 years old and in a business suit," Clyde said. "He actually had tears in his eyes when he looked at the place. He said, `You didn't change anything.' Vesuvio has kept its character as a neighborhood bar.”[4]

Photographs in this collection were shot on April 11, 2011 between 7:30 am and 5:00 pm Pacific Time under variable natural lighting due to cloudy skies with intermittent periods of morning exposure conditions. Photos were captured on the following cameras: Canon DSLR XTI/T2i, S95, Sony Cybershot, Canon Powershot. Lenses used include: Macro 60mm, Telephoto 70-200, Canon T2i 18-55mm, Canon XTI 17-85mm. A tripod was used for timelapse, Gigapan, macro, telephoto, HDR, and photogrammetry shots. iPhones were also used for documentation shots and Geo-tagging. The photos were post-processed in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3.

Description written by Kenneth Chiu, following Addison’s proposed virtual heritage metadata format in his chapter “The Vanishing Virtual” in New Heritage: New Media and Cultural Heritage, edited by Kalay, et al., and published by Routledge in 2007.

All photos Copyright ©2011 Center for Digital Archaeology, Berkeley CA, licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC 3.0 For more information contact Center for Digital Archaeology, Berkeley, CA, 94720 or visit

All photos Copyright ©2011 Center for Digital Archaeology, Berkeley CA
Creative Commons
For more information contact Center for Digital Archaeology, Berkeley, CA,
94720 or visit
For more facts and information about Alcatraz, please visit

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Day 203
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Image by prendio2

I've been slowly getting through Susan Sontag's On Photography for quite a while now.

Yeah, I'm a slow reader, but I've been particularly taking my time with Sontag because I've enjoyed reflecting on how the essays, first published in 1977, can elucidate our interpretation of photographs online, how they apply to the work I do for this blog, and how best to approach future projects.

"A photograph changes according to the context in which it is seen… on a contact sheet, in a gallery, in a political demonstration, in a police file, in a photographic magazine, in a general news magazine, in a book, on a living-room wall. Each of these situations suggests a different use for the [photograph] but none can secure [its] meaning."
- The Heroism of Vision

The web has enabled an even more prolific spread of photographic images and multiplied the range of contexts in which their meaning can be changed. To Sontag's list above we can add: as a thumbnail in a gallery, on a photo-sharing site like or flickr, on a news site, on a photo blog, as part of a portfolio, on a political blog, as a twitter background, as a facebook profile image… I could keep going.

Social media has played a particularly strong part in re-evaluating the role of the snapshot, readily equating it with the status previously assigned to photo-journalism. When a plane crash landed in New York's Hudson River in January, Janis Krums, en route to help rescue survivors, snapped a picture on his iPhone and posted it to his twitter account. Within minutes the picture had not only been reposted thousands of times online but was being broadcast worldwide on traditional news media.

There has also been a huge shift in the way that we share our images with friends. Gone are the days of passing grubby thumb-marked 4x6” prints around a coffee table, or the iconic (and dreaded) slide show of the summer holidays. You are much more likely, these days, to glance through your friends' snaps online, without them peering over your shoulder, regaling, or bombarding, you with details and anecdotes (there can be such a thing as too much context it would seem).

Artists have also taken their photographs online, often using the same photo-sharing sites, creating their own portfolios or publishing photo blogs. The interconnectedness of the web would seem perfectly suited to produce what Sontag describes as:

"…new meanings that any one picture acquires when juxtaposed—in ideal anthologies, either on museum walls or in books—with the work of other photographers."
- Photographic Evangels

The Internet can, potentially, provide many more ideal anthologies and there is still much room for innovation in how we seek to create meaning around photographs.

Tagging, geotagging and other organisational structures help form groups of images relating to events, subjects, styles, places etc. These, often organic, collections in many ways hold up the paradigm of the ideal anthology but the critical unit remains the single image and the pattern for presenting that unit is well established

[ see diagram at ]

This pattern has its merits for family pictures and photographs of events shared among friends but in the context of art criticism it generally falls hopelessly short.

"The language in which photographs are generally evaluated is extremely meagre. Sometimes it is parasitical on the vocabulary of painting: composition, light, and so forth. More often it consists in the vaguest sort of judgements, as when photographs are praised for being subtle, or interesting, or powerful, or complex, or simple, or—a favourite—deceptively simple."
- Photographic Evangels

I suggest three strands of a fresh approach to presenting photographic images online.

1. Harness the dynamic relationship between context and meaning.

2. Juxtapose work by different photographers in a structured and meaningful way which creates new meanings for the individual work of each.

3. Break the overworked design pattern in a way that promotes constructive and creative response.

I am working to create a project along these lines and I hope others are too. Our use of photography has adapted to new technology since Sontag wrote this seminal work in 1977, the evolution will continue, it may not be televised but it most certainly will be online.

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