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Ride Around 1940s San Francisco in this Remastered Film

Updated: Feb 08, 2022 09:58
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In the comments section, people who formerly swore off colorized film were enchanted by how the hue made the past feel closer than ever.

A 35mm black and white film of San Francisco from the 1940s found in the Internet Archive was restored by NASS for stabilized, de-noised, cleaned, and de-blurred image, and then boosted to 60 frames per second and high-definition image resolution. The Bold Italic helped spread the word about this last week.

You can truly tell these are the 40s by the way everyone stares back at the camera with bemusement if not unease. These microinteractions between those being filmed, the camera, and presumably the person behind the camera, are refreshing to witness all the way in 2022, when cameras are so ubiquitous (and pervasive). There’s a shot of shops alongside Fisherman’s Grotto and a conspicuous sign that reads: “Restricted Area – NO CAMERAS Permitted”.

There’s a shot of City Hall before it got its gold leafing in the 90s, and plenty of cable cars. Even with the trip back in time, the myriad of Edwardian homes (many of which were built after the 1906 earthquake and fire) and cars parked perpendicularly on steep hills remain a familiar part of San Francisco’s visual identity.

The opening shot of this footage features one of the intersections with Grant Street, dubbed “San Francisco’s Oldest Street, and where many tourists and locals frequent in Chinatown today. Even with the now-closed Suey Chong Co. storefront and everyone’s fancy-lookin’ daytime wear, I felt kinship with the San Francisco’s Chinese residents, who I had only read about or seen static, black-and-white images of in tracing histories of migration to and exclusionary housing policy in California. Now I could witness them, as humans going about their day, walking in and out of frame, even if for a fleeting, grainy, moment.

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Jessica Z

Jessica Z

Listening, dancing, writing (in that order, mostly!) -- a product of the internet, always excited to talk about digital/algorithmic agency, fate, and selfhood, and looking for ways to contribute to cultural and artistic community/infrastructure in San Francisco and beyond. Say hi online ( or in the crowd of an upcoming show!