Studio Address

754 Clementina St.   |   San Francisco, CA 94103
Phone: 415 241-9455
Studio e-mail:


Installation Shot


Artist Statement

Architecture and Urban Landscape

The photographs in this series are part of a larger project to document the architecture, landscape and people of San Francisco during the most pervasive changes the city has seen in decades. They were made with a tripod-mounted bellows camera that uses 8″ x 10″ film, a device that cannot capture motion but renders objects in repose with great clarity.

Though deeply ingrained in the popular imagination, the San Francisco of “Vertigo” and “Bullitt,” The Joy Luck Club and The Maltese Falcon, the Beat Poets and the Summer of Love is rapidly being transformed by boom-and-bust cycles in the tech industry and its close cousin, the real estate market. The famous landmarks mostly remain, though the vistas are gradually shrinking in the face of construction, while the social landscape increasingly resembles that of Manhattan, where an earlier influx of wealth led to the gradual exodus of its middle- and lower-class inhabitants. How far down this path San Francisco will travel, how soon, and with what consequences for its fabled ethnic diversity and the character of its neighborhoods remain open questions.


From late spring through early fall, San Francisco is the site of numerous annual marches, street fairs, parades and non-hosted happenings, many of the participants of which are explicitly engaged in consciousness-raising. Their messages are sometimes expressly political in obvious ways, but in other cases what they advocate for is the freedom to pursue styles of life traditionally rejected, discouraged and even outlawed. Still other participants in these events try to call attention to passions and pursuits far out of the mainstream. My intention with the portraits is to depict how San Franciscans express the freedom and tolerance that, for many, is a large part of what makes them stay.

Those most deeply involved in these events often represent themselves and their interests through dress, adornment, makeup, signage and role-playing to communicate viscerally with an audience that will see and possibly hear them only briefly. Whatever the particular content being communicated, however, a common underlying message is discernible: whether what I am committed to alarms or amuses or unsettles or inspires you, it is — and I am — valuable and thus worthy of respect.

The photographs in this body of work were taken with a tripod-mounted view camera, often immediately before or after an event began. They were made with each subject’s active participation.



Solo Exhibitions


One Post Street, McKesson Building, San Francisco, CA

The Residents, 858 Stanyan Street, San Francisco, CA



Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, Berkeley, CA



“Quiet City” Exhibition at the San Francisco International Airport

Vedder Price,  275 Battery Street Suite 2464, San Francisco, CA



“San Francisco in Black and White,” One Front Street and 50 Beale Street, San Francisco, CA

“Quiet City,” 475 Sansome Street and 45 Fremont Street, San Francisco, CA



“Quiet City,” 555 California Street, San Francisco, CA


Group Exhibitions


“Spotlight: Photography,” Arc Galleries, San Francisco, CA


“As It Happened,” Gary Francis Fine Art, Alameda, CA

“Urban Grit,” Gary Francis Fine Art, Alameda, CA

“Now that You’re Gone,” San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, CA

“Sky,” Bedford Gallery, Walnut Creek, CA


“Someplace in Space,” 5 Claude Lane Gallery, San Francisco, CA




University of California Press, “Boom: a Journal of California,” Summer 2014 issue


Documents of San Francisco, catalog, c. 40 pages, 2013


Panel Discussions


San Francisco Arts Commission, “Artists (Re)Defining San Francisco Neighborhoods” with Janet Delaney and Lordy Rodriguez, moderated by Pireeni Sundaralingam.


Compassionate mind
Brilliant mind
Instinctually kind and generous
Deep empathy
A love of people, all of you.
And a deep curiosity about people, about their ways, your ways.
Profoundly humble
Leo was such a natural that you might not readily call out these traits.
But you would feel heard and known, as much in a casual encounter as in an in-depth conversation over just about any topic of your choice.
Over the years Leo was able to channel these fine traits into his photographic work. Because we know Leo we can see and remember him through this work. Our memories, his photographic work and the LEO Foundation to support community organizations are his legacy.
Leo was always camera-ready.
Generous with his time and with gifts of keepsake photos.
He photographed my college graduation and our wedding….my brother and myself, just for fun….my brother’s big music gigs.
Our family is very grateful.
He was the modest man behind the camera, capturing the scenes and never appearing himself.
Leo loved his community, San Francisco and the Bay Area at large.
He enjoyed the natural beauty of water and the rolling hills, south, north and east
The expansive fusion of art and technology in the architecture and design of this great city.
He also knew the shortcomings. There was anguish in seeing and knowing the plight of the mentally ill and homeless, a daily occurrence.
He was driven to capture this disparity and splendor in his photography.
He had big car-mounted cameras for landscape and architecture and little point and shoot cameras for street activity, parades, protests and neighborhood events.
Art critics are tasked to judge images and not the personalities of the artists.
In that arena the image should speak for itself. Leo’s work is worthy of critical acclaim, but these photos speak differently to friends and family, those who knew him.
If you miss him or want to remember him, take a look at his photos. Leo left us a collection of photographs that tell us a lot about who he was. Ask questions about any photo, or collection of photos and you will remember him.
Why the setting, the subjects and how did he pull that one off? What did he say that would allow an intimate portrait photo of a stranger? That is the Leo we know and whom we will remember.
I will close with 2 stories
Leo reveled in the depth of human creativity and ingenuity.
He was fascinated by science and technology. This is the source of his keen focus on shooting architectural cityscapes. He knew the appearance of buildings was always changing as clouds and sun did their dance through a San Francisco day. Or as street and office lights appeared at dusk and remained throughout the night.
Leo spoke of this and would also say things like “images from Market Street are best captured mid-morning and in late spring or early fall”, because he also understood the seasonal trajectory of the sun. A brilliant appreciation of light, artistic space and astronomy….due to many days spent at the same photographic sites. Contemplate and meditate on his architectural images and you will be with him.
Finally, imagine Leo is out on the street, taking a walk with his camera. He comes upon a 24 hr gas station at 24th and Van Ness where a man and his son are filling up. The man is dressed up . . . with mask, hat, cape, boots and bullwhip. His son is wearing a similar hat and cape . . . The photo is fantastic. Why did Leo stop? Because he couldn’t miss an opportunity to capture the human condition.
How did he engage the father and son, nail down the scene and take the perfectly framed photo at this busy gas station? I don’t know for sure. Did it have something to do with a kind empathic approach? Probably.
You must look at the photo and remember this as a great day in Leo’s life, when he was at his best.
Behind the joy of (father) and son was Leo’s joy. Because we knew Leo, we can see his joy…….in this and many other photos.  —David Lippincot’s memorial address for Leo vanMunching