October 5, 2019February 23, 2020

Apocalypse 1906: Photographs of the San Francisco Earthquake by Arnold Genthe

Berlin-born photographer Arnold Genthe (1869–1942) was an established member of San Francisco’s art community when disaster struck on April 18, 1906. Although he was physically unharmed in the great earthquake (estimated at 7.8 on the Richter scale), Genthe lost the contents of his studio, including his photographic equipment and most of his negatives, in the inferno that swept through the city. Armed with a borrowed pocket camera, he roamed the streets and documented the destruction, producing more than 170 views starting on the day of the earthquake and continuing for several weeks. In dramatic detail, Genthe’s photographs record the sudden and shocking transformation of a modern American metropolis into a post-apocalyptic disaster area.

Image: Arnold Genthe, "Untitled (Facade with Three Arches in Ruin)" (detail), 1906. Gelatin silver print, 10 9/16 x 13 13/16 in. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Achenbach Foundation for the Graphic Arts, Museum purchase, James D. Phelan Bequest Fund, 1943.407.69.2

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