'Sweat Shop Girl' (San Francisco, 1969) - Limited Edition 4 of 20 Photograph by John Crosley

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Art Description

Photography: Black & White, Paper, Photo on Paper.

Print sold, more available plus signed 'limited edition' images sale continues for now without 'limited edition' price rise. Prices may rise soon for 'prints' however. jc


This work from 1969 was taken toward the beginning of a 50-year career, during time spent in San Francisco as I was about to begin work for Associated Press.

They offered and I accepted a position as a staff AP photographer, and after a six-month approval process, the hire was OK'd by top AP management and the Board of Directors.

On the afternoon of my first night's assignment, a colleague sent me to meet his old friend 'Henry' who was 'showing some pictures on Van Ness Ave.,'

Henry was famed photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson,in S.F. to exhibit his life's work. We spoke about the future of photography which then looked bleak, even for him in front of the prestigious De Young Museum on Van Ness Ave.

He advised me to 'shoot for yourself, John', and I went back to AP and quit the new photographer job. Instead,AP kept me on as a writer.

Despite absolutely NO experience as a writer,my first day's big story went around the world often on front pages, and my future as a writer was assured. (I since spent nearly 20 years as a Silicon Valley attorney, before resuming photography 14 years ago.)

Because of riots my senior year at Columbia College, Columbia University, NYC, which shut down the enormous campus, I did not then have AP's otherwise-requisite undergraduate degree though I had the education, and later returned from Vietnam where I had freelanced.

I had just worked side by side with AP and UPI photographers as a freelance at San Francisco's many events, especially campus riots which then were fomenting first at San Francisco State, where I was almost killed by a wayward, homemade bomb, to UC Berkeley across San Francisco Bay which was in major uproar over so-called 'People's Park'.

That moniker was given a section of land that was scheduled by UC Berkeley to be turned into auto parking.

Protesters blocking the land's transformation made it into a symbol of capitalist greed and environmental disregard.

Huge riots featuring protesters vs. phalanxes of police engulfed the park-like campus of the jewel of California's vaunted university system.

Tear gas from rioters vs. police from the city and numerous nearby cities and other jurisdictions often wafted through classrooms of those who were brave enough to try to attend classes in that highly charged atmosphere.

This was just after the 'Summer of Love', the infamous 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention, and followed Vietnam's Tet offense and the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy.

The feeling among students and protesting youths against the Vietnam war (from which I had just returned) was that war was not justified, and those who were unlucky enough not to have a student draft deferment were being sent to their slaughter for a cause no one understood and much less cared about.

Defense Secretary McNamara, who helped lead the war effort spent much of his elder years touring and apologizing for essentially 'manufacturing a war he came to believe was his own grave mistake that robbed tens of thousands or more of their lives, unnecessarily.

This was a time when the numerous Chinese immigrants (many of them Communist refugees) flooded San Francisco looking for work and to share in American prosperity.

Innate racism, an overabundance of cheap, unskilled labor by the mothers shown here toiling over their piecework garment sewing machines forced many women to take their children to work with them -- no child care was available.

This scene is just a few streets on the edge of Chinatown that morph into the bustling and abundant San Francisco Financial District, and is almost in the shadow of the giant Bank of America tower a block or three away.

Chinese immigrants were fueled by a major drive to succeed economically, and such work was far from 'beneath them' as the first step up the rung of the capitalist ladder.

Many of the women depicted here almost certainly became some of San Francisco's ethnic leaders, and as a group, most of them prospered.

The Chinese immigrants of 1969 developed into a major political force in San Francisco and also prospered financially, with major numbers flocking to the city's now very expensive Sunset District.

This is the place and setting of 'The Joy Luck Club' written by Amy Tan, one of Chinatown's famous first generation immigrant daughters who wrote how such young mothers came to America bringing their traditions and history to the 'Land of Opportunity' where they raised their new, very successful American families.

(This girl is maybe ten years younger than Ms. Tan, based on observation and Ms. Tan's year of birth, 1952.

Absurdly low piecework wages, anti-Chinese immigrant racism (then endemic in San Francisco), and a strong desire to succeed financially, all combined to bring these women together.

Their hard, almost selfless, work propelled a great number to financial prosperity and to become a major political force in later San Francisco's politics.

This is the first rung of the ladder.

This 'street' image is inspired by the humanistic photos of Henri Cartier-Bresson who one fateful day advised me to 'shoot for yourself, John' - advice I have taken to this day.



'Sweat Shop Girl' (San Francisco, 1969) - Limited Edition 4 of 20

John Crosley

United States


Size: 28.8 W x 36 H x 0.1 in

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