At 90, Fred Lyon is a legendary San Franciscan photographer. He is now known for capturing the ethereal feel of the city and its people, but in the 1940s and ’50s, Lyon was scrabbling to gain a footing in the magazine industry. Luckily, it was a good time to do so: San Francisco was entering a new golden age, consumed by a post–World War II hunger for creative expression. His new book,San Francisco: Portrait of a City 1940-1960, out last month fromPrinceton Architectural Press, is a portrait of the city bursting with life, from its streets to its stores to its grandest palaces of art and culture.
Based 3,000 miles from New York—the center of the publishing industry—Lyon was left mostly to his own devices because editors knew he could be relied upon to organize, shoot, and deliver a story on deadline. What he strove for was “seduction, creating images that demanded more space than had been planned for them,” he said via email.