Mark Ellinger is a phoenix. He has emerged from the ashes of the mean streets of San Francisco and has rediscovered himself through the lenses of a camera. He shares his story with no censorship and invites us to witness the lives that have unfolded on Sixth Street, Mid-Market and Tenderloin and the history that is often overlooked.
He currently has 6 photos up at 1:AM gallery for “The City”. Check out some of his art here:
MARK ELLINGER’S BIO:
My formal education in the arts includes 13 years of piano technique (1955-1968) and classes in oil painting and filmmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute (1968-1971). From 1971 to 1987 I wrote music for performance art and motion pictures, including works by directors George Kuchar (The Devil’s Cleavage), Curt McDowell (Thundercrack!), Larry Jordan/Orson Welles (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner) and poet Cyrus Cassells (Fragments from the World of Henri LeCroix).
Between 1985 and 1995 I lost pretty much all that was dear to me—friends, family, business, home, and possessions—and for six years I plumbed the depths of experience and my own psyche, living on the mean streets of the City as a homeless junkie. It damn near killed me. While hospitalized I had an epiphany and re-embraced life. It was an absolute line of demarcation between the Now and the Past, so at the age of 51 my life was essentially a tabula rasa. Over the next six years, from 2001 through 2006, I literally reinvented myself while living in a Sixth Street hotel named the Shree Ganeshai. It was during this time, near the end of 2002, that I rescued a cheap little one megapixel camera from the trash and started photographing my surroundings. Although I had a great time doing this, the resulting very low resolution photos were completely unusable, but they did inspire me to go into debt a year later with the purchase of a little Canon G3.
That was when The Hotel Project, renamed Up from the Deep, really began. Besides wanting to make a photographic record, I wanted to change the way people saw central city architecture and thus save it from the obliteration that was then a very real possibility. Also, I had become deeply involved in efforts to improve the quality of life in SROs (single room occupancy residential hotels), so I used my photos to show the plight of their tenants. No doubt partly because I was the only person who cared enough about these buildings to photograph them, at the end of 2006 I was asked to work with architectural historian Michael Corbett (Splendid Survivors: San Francisco’s Downtown Architectural Heritage, 1979, California Living Books) on a survey of the Tenderloin for the National Register of Historic Places district nomination, which was accepted in 2007 and approved in 2008. At the end of 2008 I published the first two volumes of Up from the Deep, Sixth Street and Mid-Market.* The Tenderloin, now officially the Uptown Tenderloin Historic District, continues to be a focal point for my work as I complete the third and final volume of Up from the Deep, Uptown Tenderloin, and develop a map of the historic district.