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Storied: San Francisco

Mar 26, 2024

Chloe Sherman's eyes are intense, but not the way you might think.

Chloe, who's been taking photographs since she was young, was born in New York City. Her mom and her mom's mom were both New Yorkers, and her dad was from Chicago, with his family going back generations there. When she in was grade school, the family moved to Chicago, where Chloe was raised by aunts and grandparents as well as her parents, just like she had been in NYC.
It was the Seventies and her parents were hippies. They soon headed west, taking their family to Portland, Oregon, where Chloe spent the rest of her grade school days.
Chloe says the move was fine, but that she felt like more of a city kid, and so it took some adjusting. She and her brother visited back east a lot. He ended up going to college there, and Chloe started school in Connecticut and then Boston before realizing that she'd become a West Coaster.
We talk about life in Portland, how it's easier to be collective-minded and communal because it's more affordable than bigger cities. This of course has an effect on who's drawn to cities like Portland. With an abundance of young people, folks tend to band together.
Chloe ended up going to Portland State. One weekend, she took a trip to San Francisco after reading about our city in a zine she got at Powell's Books in her hometown. We take a conversational detour at this point to talk about zine culture back in the late-Eighties and early Nineties.
In high school, she had dabbled in dance and music, but knew she didn't want to pursue either performing art. She says she loved art and did some photography, but got more serious about that after high school.
In those aforementioned zines, she learned all about the bike messenger culture here in The City and was captivated by it. On that weekend trip down from Portland, she visited Lickety Split Couriers, which was Lynn Breedlove's bike messenger company. Chloe ended up working at another messenger for two weeks, but soon gave that up entirely. "San Francisco is instant death if you're not a pro," she says. We talk a bit about bike messenger culture in SF back in the Nineties. The service was essential to downtown during dotcom, but you'd hardly know it these days.
Breedlove told Chloe, "Go to the Bearded Lady Cafe," which she did. And it changed her life forever. It was there that she found her community. Chloe moved to San Francisco right after that visit to the cafe on 14th Street in the Mission.
She lived with friends until she finally got her own place in Lower Haight. After Chloe was established here, friends from Portland followed her to The City. Her world was expanding around her. She says that she looks at photos now from back then and sees concentric circles of friends.
The SF Dyke scene flourished through the Nineties. But then people grew up, got priced out, and The City changed. Many businesses closed with those changes.
Check back next week for Part 2 to hear more about that thriving, bustling, Mission lesbian scene that Chloe captures so well and so prolifically in her photography.
Photography by Jeff Hunt