He’s also the director of the new 6th On 7th Gallery, where "Mission and Seventh Area Photography Project” and “Works from the Collection: 1992-2014” are on view. The shows include images taken by artists, some homeless, who are current and former participants in the Sixth Street Photography Workshop.
Ferentz, whose photos have been shown at galleries in San Francisco and Portland, Ore., started in the workshop in 1992 when the Tenants & Owners Development Corp., a developer of low-cost housing, offered him an opportunity to work with residents of hotels on Sixth Street.
While he says the prospect of working amid “the dangers and aromas of the area was not immediately appealing,” he liked the idea of doing the workshop.
“It seemed like the thing to do. I had been professionally involved in documentary and socially concerned photography for many years,” says Ferentz, who taught at UC Extension and California State University Hayward.
He also had become disenchanted and frustrated because what was known as documentary photography had become routine, either steeped in tradition or affected by concessions to political correctness, leaving less room for creativity.
He also notes how the relationship between photography and the poor had evolved considerably since Jacob Riis – a homeless immigrant himself – took pioneering photographs of tenement life in New York at the turn of the 20th century.
For Ferentz, everyone has a right to be and to photograph, anywhere they are allowed to enter with a camera. He says, “Photography has a way of operating across social divisions. It can be more invested in describing and defining the divisions themselves than in potentially affecting social conditions or injustice.”
A book by Ferentz, "Stories of the City," contains many photos on view at 6th on 7th Gallery taken by photographers including Ferentz, workshop instructor S. Renee Jones, Angela Svarda, Kim Stefanac, Tim Green, Daniela Semeco, Billy Mitchell, Darryl J. Eronn, Alec Alexander and Barry Cunningham.
Among the most evocative photos in the show are Stefanac’s shot of a giant lady at Treasure Island, and Eronn’s close-up of a man sitting on the ground, knees up, intently lighting up, smoking what presumably is crack.
Most of the prints on display – both from the 22 years of archived images and present-day work – are for sale. The book “Stories of the City” also may be purchased, for $5.
IF YOU GO
6th On 7th Gallery
Where: Hotel Isabel, Seventh and Mission streets, S.F.
When: 1 to 4 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays
Contact: (415) 778-4007, www.sixthstreetphoto.net