Parks belong to all of us – they’re where we gather to play, celebrate, and spend time with those we care about, and that is what we were commemorating on this cold and foggy San Francisco morning at the Presidio. The My Park Moment photo show celebrates our local and national parks and the unique experiences we all have in them with emotionally evocative images capturing the beauty of the great outdoors, as well as the social and cultural connections that are part of the park experience.
“This is especially needed in the world we live in today, in a world ravaged by Covid, in a world where we are having a really important conversation about equity, that parks need to be for everyone, a democratic platform where people from across our community feel welcome, where they get the benefits of the beauty, the health benefits of being in the outdoors and the opportunity to come together with their loved ones,” says chief park officer Michael Boland.
This large-scale, outdoor exhibition is made up of over 400 photos shared by people from all backgrounds, including everyday parkgoers, teenagers, and professional photographers. Hand-picked by a group of creators and community leaders from 7000 submissions, these inspiring images capture the beauty of the great outdoors and the joy that time in nature can bring.
Spread across four outdoor locations in the Presidio (part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area) it will be up for one year as part of the opening of the new Presidio Tunnel Tops, opening in the Spring of 2022, with 14 acres of new parkland with trails, scenic overlooks, picnic sites, and an interactive play space for kids. The exhibit is in partnership with Photoville, a New York-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to build a wide, diverse audience for photographic narratives and nurture a new lens of representation, the images are displayed on large shipping containers to amplify impactful narratives. “Photography is a universal language that allows everyone to tell their own story. The opportunity for these stories to be displayed publicly is priceless,” says Laura Roumanos, executive director and co-founder of Photoville. “We’re thrilled that this show represents such diversity of gender, class, and race in one of the country’s most beautiful national park settings.”
A special Youth Pavilion section of the show features images selected by eight community youth curators, recruited by leaders from the Crissy Field Center; they spent time exploring what public art curation means in places like San Francisco’s Mission District, the Box Shop in the Bayview neighborhood, and the Presidio. “The fact that they come from all over the Bay Area and view the Presidio as their park represents the values that were built into this show and the Presidio Tunnel Tops, too,” said Mark Yanez of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, who helped lead the Community Youth Curators team along with Jessica Lie of the Parks Conservancy.
In the category of Visual Story Award, participants submitted a collection of 8-10 images, and winners were awarded a cash honorarium. Four photographers were awarded for their work portraying park experiences as they traversed the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and political events of the past year. Winners include Yuxing Liu (Crissy Field East), Sheilby Macena (Main Post East), Francess Santos (Crissy Field West), and Marissa Leshnov (Main Post West).
Oakland’s Black Joy at Lake Merritt Park By Sheilby Macena
Photo Showcased at Main Post East
“My work is a reflection of me. It’s my endless desire to expose the beauty of rawness and authenticity across all spectrums, primarily Black identities. I wish to bring a different meaning to intimacy—as Gordon Parks eloquently did—and expand on the many Black experiences that exist, as many prominent Black photographers are doing today. As a first-generation Haitian American, I seek to put on for my people, my ancestors, and represent us in my work.”
Taking Up Space By Marissa Leshnov
Photo Showcased at Main Post West
The Oakland OMies is a community of Black women who promote wellness, mindfulness, and healing through yoga. They came together shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic and kept in community with each other during the height of shelter-in-place orders by meeting at parks throughout the Bay Area. The parks, therefore, became both a backdrop for and catalyst to expanding access to yoga—at a time when the devastating impacts of the pandemic, and lack of accountability for police violence, created compounding traumas for Black people in the Bay and across the country. In contrast to the isolation that many Black people feel when navigating spaces where they do not see themselves reflected, the Oakland OMies seek to create a culture of safety and belonging both on and off the mat. The parks continue to play an important part in that journey.
A Breath of Normalcy By Yuxing Liu
Photo Showcased at Crissy Field East
Yuxing Liu is a computer engineer in Silicon Valley who enjoys taking photos of everyday life.
“I live in San Jose but often visited San Francisco before the pandemic. I’ve gone
to Alamo Square Park several times because of its famous “Painted Ladies” view. It’s always packed with people. People with different backgrounds gathered to hang out with friends and family, read a book, or just meditate with a beautiful view. I tried to document this public yet intimate space by taking photos of different people. In the process, like others in the park, I felt like I could finally take a breath of normalcy during this difficult period.”
SanFran State of Mind By Francess Santos
Photo Showcased at Crissy Field West
“Rediscovering my hometown with my two boys has inspired me to see the old and familiar in a new light. The pandemic has definitely encouraged me to spend more time outdoors, and experience all the things my sons and I have never got around to doing together. I took advantage of my time off and explored my own backyard, turning it into many adventures that we will never forget. Seeing my boys explore with their fresh eyes, and watching them enjoy themselves has given me more of a reason to really love San Francisco.”
The exhibit sites are: on the Main Post and Crissy Field, surrounding the future Presidio Tunnel Tops site: The Main Parade Ground at Anza Street, Sports Basement, 1180 Old Mason Street, and the Presidio YMCA.
Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter and LinkedIn for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor, her experience spans television, cable news, and magazines. An avid traveler and foodie, she loves artisan food and finding hidden gems: restaurants, recipes, destinations. She can be reached at: [email protected]