San Francisco Tells Jason Madara and George McCalman "I AM BAYVIEW"
San Francisco has experienced an incredible transition over the last decade. As soon as it was identified as ground zero for tech development, the socioeconomics of the city changed drastically. In that time the social makeup, property value, and identity of the city shifted and the reaction has been rightfully mixed, to put it lightly. As the city grapples with its different identity, it has shifted and expanded in ways that the larger community isn’t happy with, and that is understandable. No one wants their home to change. As a way to celebrate the diversity of San Francisco neighborhoods, the city teamed up with Jason Madara, George McCalman and Bayview Underground on a series of posters that feature more than two dozen Bayview residents for a projected dubbed I AM BAYVIEW. “It was a joy for Jason and me to take part in this community initiative, from conception to execution to installation,” said George McCalman. “We wanted to celebrate the Bayview community — the people who have a desire to be seen and who have a say in how their homes and community are being portrayed.”
“The idea was born from several conversations about gentrification in San Francisco,” McCalman posted on his Instagram, @mccalmanco. “It’s an ongoing (and frustrating) subject amongst those of us who live here. In the course of talking, we came up with the idea of photographing the people representative of the values of a neighborhood that is suddenly desirable. One of the issues, oftentimes, is the people who live there are ignored in favor of expansion and ‘growth.’ We felt differently. We wanted to celebrate the current community; the people who have a desire to be seen, and have a say in how their homes and community are being portrayed. It was our mission to say, visually, that if you’re going to move to a neighborhood, you should get to know the people who live there.” McCalman and Madara leaned hard into representative diversity. They approached subjects from all walks of life, backgrounds, and racial representation, each of whom hold a special place in their communities. Social leaders, business owners, commentators, all vocal residents of the city who are fully engaged. Gentrification is often a destructive force, but confronting the issue head on with the community’s leaders is the only way to counter some of its subtler effects.
Madara and McCalman have worked together extensively in the past, including their ‘Individuals’ series from 2015 that photographed artists and entrepreneurs from all over San Francisco to create intimate portraits. I AM BAYVIEW is an extension of that very same story, delving deeper into the figures that are beloved in this neighborhood. “My intent for this project was to make a beautiful portrait series of a diverse community and show the range of people that in this vibrant area of the city,” Madara says. So that’s what they did.
Since being released to the public, the project has catalyzed a fiery conversation about the impact of gentrification in San Francisco and the responsibility of representation. Some of the dialogue has been constructive and that’s what Madara and McCalman are pouring their energy into, passionate to continue the conversation and engage the community even deeper. The conversation itself is important. The conversation was the intended result. Everything that’s happened since the release of the project was what was supposed to happen, in a way.
“What constitutes a neighborhood in San Francisco? Especially a historically black one? Who decides who is Bayview?,” McCalman mused on his Instagram, questions that were present while they conceived the project, and questions that are still present today. These questions may not have answers, but as the community engages with each other and does the work of finding those answers, they’ll get closer to understanding and finding a common truth that includes all residents of Bayview, and represents the neighborhood they love.