“Kids at Duboce Park” by Laurel Thornton

San Francisco is a legendary photographers’ dream of a city. When I first moved there years ago, I went to every gallery, every museum’s monthly free day and photo fair, but most of all I explored every neighborhood with my camera at different times of day or night. San Francisco has a winning combination of a particularly beautiful, dramatic quality of coastal light, fog, elegant and funky architecture, hilly cityscapes and quirky people that have fascinated photographers for as long as photography has existed. 

I had access to some wonderful teachers, workshops and events throughout the city that always kept my imagination and my camera busy. In the lower Haight district at Duboce Park in San Francisco there is a wonderful and well equipped community darkroom and studios—the Harvey Milk Photo Center—which I joined when I moved to the city. I would get on a bus and haul my negs and paper across town, where I stood and waited with other members for those doors to open. There was a small but lively park right in front of the building with a dog park section and swings, sliding board and a giant sand box. 

I bussed over there one Saturday morning, waiting for the Photo Center to open and these three little munchkins were wrestling and burying each other in the sand. I asked if I could shoot them and they were happy to perform for me. I shot about six frames or so before I knew I had my shot. The two kids on the left are brothers and the other kid was their best buddy. When I knew I got my shot, I thanked them. The little guy on the left, requested to kiss me as payment for his performance. So I let that cute little dirt covered face kiddo kiss me on the cheek. 

I live in Santa Cruz now, about 70 miles south of San Francisco. Before pandemic times, I was commuting to San Francisco a couple of days a week as I still had work there. I’m still in love with it, it’s buildings, culture, food, animals and people. Now I’m on my next photo adventure in my new hometown and can still access my city too. I truly have the best of all worlds.

What do you think are the TWO most impactful features that make your image a good photograph? Don’t be shy!

The first feature of a good photograph in my mind is strong composition. The structural composition here is pretty solid but there’s also a composition of personality dynamics that amuses me. I guess that’s another way of saying timing plus irresistibly hilarious subject matter.

If you would be able to make this photo once again, what would be the ONE thing you would like to do better or different?

I would maybe try for a series but I had to get my place in that darkroom, you know.

Laurel Thornton shared this photograph in the FRAMES Facebook Group.


Laurel Thornton, Santa Cruz, California, USA


Equipment and Settings

I was using my humble work horse, the Canon A-1 with a nice fast 35mm lens.

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Comments (1):

  1. Mémé Thorne

    December 18, 2020 at 18:37

    Simply gorgeous! I love the composition and the aliveness of the expressions on their faces. Very engaging. It’s a picture of a moment of truth, which, in theatre, allows the audience to recognise something in themselves and therefore hits its mark. Well captured. Thankyou.


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