Go West Young Man – The Alternative California Dream

by Barry Delaney 26th Oct 2015


All my adult life I have had a passionate  obsession with America – the Empire of our time, the roadmap for our Western ways – Levi’s, Coke Cola, Apple, McDonalds, Hollywood blockbusters, Rock n’Roll, Chevrolets and Harley Davidsons – America introduced me, a teenage dropout, to the Arts – the writings of Kerouac, the films of Scorsese, the music of the Stooges and the New York Dolls, the poetry of Dylan and Lou Reed, the magical bliss of John Coltrane, the paintings of Rothko and my favourite photographer Robert Frank (The Americans).

Washington may be the official capital, New York is the real one, but it is sunny California that shapes our modern world – from the hippies and beats of San Francisco, to the studios and icons of Hollywood, to the digital startup’s and innovators of Silicon Valley – California really is the land of sunshine, dreamers and gold-diggers.


Go West young man – I was told by many a New York bartender, and San Francisco always seemed more like home, almost Dublin like.


But, right bang in the centre of San Francisco, a stones throw from the shopping hub of Union Square, across the road from Market street, home to Twitter itself, is the Tenderloin – amidst the liberal affluent chic of San Fran is an oasis of the real wild West – riddled with sirens, drugs, gunshots, hookers, hostels, soup kitchens, fashion and vice, crackheads yelling incoherent paranoid mantras – is this the home of the Hippies, Apple and all things new-age?


And yet, somehow its all carried out in style, maybe a beat pimp style, in that cool California way, like a set from a 60’s Steve McQueen drama – each time I return, the action has moved on, sometimes across the street to the Mission , but it always has that edge – the last time I was their I was run out by a gang of punks, angered by my candid street photography style – Always that adrenaline rush, in fact a Fear and Loathing – here is a sample of some of the characters I have met down through the years, that I’m putting together for my new book, the Americans for the 21st Century.


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One Comment

  1. Once again, realy great images Barry. You have the knack/gift or capturing the essence of people.

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