Man with a Camera Traveling in Time - Page 4

Fred Lyon looks over the shoulder at mid-century Bay Area—in his upbeat world of enduring images
Fred Lyon
The Sinaloa Club featured south-of-the-border sounds in San Francisco of the 1940s and '50s.
Fred Lyon
Singer and pianist Bobby Troup (of 'Get Your Kicks on Route 66' fame), with Percy Heath on bass, performs at an intimate after-hours event on Monterey's Cannery Row, 1958.
Fred Lyon
Left: Two dancers shake it at Forbidden City, an Asian-themed club from mid-century San Francisco. Right: Lyon, camera in hand, liked to be there—"I was young and I just loved all of it."

He loved working for Time-Life, he says, because if he wanted to rent an airplane or helicopter to shoot, say, an exterior of a modern home hugging the Carmel coast, Time-Life would pay.

And when there was no airplane on hand, Fred improvised, jury-rigging movable scaffoldings of TV antennas to hang a camera off the roof of a building. He even had an early underwater camera built, and found himself clambering with it over coral reefs in the Pacific.

All of it, he says—the underwater camera, the technical expertise, the get-the-job attitude—was in service to one goal—telling the story.

"It's always just to tell a story, and that's what photography's about," he says.

One story Lyon has told, though he didn't know he was telling it at the time, was of a San Francisco most of us have never known.

You could park easily in North Beach, enjoy pizza at Lupo's, catch live jazz with Herb Caen as companion all up and down Fillmore Street, or watch kids roll in handmade wooden coasters down vertiginous streets.