Current Exhibition:

San Francisco: Rebirth of the Enduring City
Vintage photographs of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition,
and the scope of San Francisco history--from the 19th century to the present day.

June 4 - August 22, 2015

Hours: Wed - Sat 11–5:30 pm; Tues by appointment
First Thursdays of the month open until 7:30pm

Contact:   415-781-1122   •   info@roberttat.com
49 Geary Street • Suite 410 • San Francisco, CA 94108


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San Francisco: Rebirth of the Enduring City

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition,
a group of vintage photographs picturing the Exposition and
tracing the scope of San Francisco history--from the 19th century to the present day.

June 4 - August 22, 2015

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition, Robert Tat Gallery presents photographs picturing the scope of San Francisco history--from the 19th century to the present day.

The Fair (known as PPIE) was organized to celebrate the rebuilding of San Francisco after the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire. Gallery Director Robert Tat explains: “While the mostly architectural photographs of the Fair itself are beautiful, our exhibition places them in context. The Exposition was a celebration of rebirth, so we want to show the city as it was as well as the city that later emerged. The scope and breadth of the exhibition gives one a sense of the varied history of the city, and what makes San Francisco such a marvelous place to live and visit.”  

The retrospective begins with a rare panorama made from two daguerreotypes of the San Francisco waterfront before April, 1851. Other 19th century photographs of the early city include views by Carleton Watkins, I. W. Taber, William Henry Jackson and others, dating from the 1870s.

The exhibition continues with images of the destroyed city just after the earthquake. A vintage Arnold Genthe photograph made a day or two after the quake reflects the horror and devastation, along with the prevailing spirit of the survivors. An R. J. Waters panorama made one year after shows a partially re-built city.

Then, on to the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition with vintage prints depicting the classical architecture of the Fair by Studio Cardinell-Vincent (official PPIE photographer), Francis Bruguiere and others. Of particular note is a grouping of vintage hand-colored views of the fair.

The exhibition concludes with 20th century images of the mid-century and modern city, including works by Perkle Jones, Moulin Studios, Horace Bristol, Vern Sutcher and others.


The ROBERT TAT GALLERY specializes in 20th century European and American photographs. The eclectic collection of vintage and later prints emphasizes Photographic Modernism, but also includes earlier and later photographs. The gallery shows works by 20th century master photographers, lesser-known mid-century photographers, the Pictorialists, select contemporary artists, as well as unique vernacular and anonymous photographs and selected 19th century works. We also maintain a good selection of vintage historical photographs of San Francisco and Califonia.

ROBERT TAT GALLERY is located in San Francisco's premiere gallery building at 49 Geary Street, Suite 410, near Union Square. The Gallery is open Wednesday - Saturday 11:00 AM - 5:30 PM; Tuesday by appointment. For further information, please call 415-781-1122.

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We are always looking for fine photographs to purchase or consign. If you have photographs you would like to sell, please contact us.

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If you are looking for a particular photographic image, works by a specific photographer or a certain style of photograph, please contact us with your request. If we don't have it in inventory we'll be pleased to search for you. We have resources for photographic material all over the world.

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What is a Salon photograph?
Numerous camera clubs around the world sponsor regular exhibitions, called salons, where members of other clubs compete to show work. The salons during the first half of the 20th century were particularly rich, featuring the work of many artists who later became famous. We take a special interest in the the works of lesser known salon photographers, often serious amateurs or commercial professionals doing their own work on the side. Their photographs are frequently beautifully composed and crafted, with an aesthetic and print quality rivaling that of the celebrated artists of the day. Many collectors appreciate salon work for these reasons -- and because it is more reasonably priced than works by better known artists. Salon prints may bear exhibition labels or stamps on the reverse of the photograph's mount, indicating awards or other participation in various salons.

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What is a Vernacular photograph?
The term "vernacular" literally means "of the commonplace." In photography collecting, it refers to photographs which were made without artistic intent. This includes commercial photographs, personal snapshots and albums, historical images, scientific photographs, etc. Many collectors find vernacular images interesting, both for subject matter and for the occasional image that has an aesthetic appeal, albeit unintentional.

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What is a Found Image?
Our Found Images are specially selected snapshots screened with the same criteria as a fine art photograph: artistic appeal, engaging or emotional subject matter, and print quality. We search through about 1000 pieces to find one "gem in the rough" that meets our standards. There is growing interest in collecting snapshots and a new appreciation of them as art, with several fine arts museums mounting exhibitions during the past few years. Found Images from Robert Tat's collection were exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1998 as part of their "Snapshots: The Photography of Everyday Life" show.

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