Sam Cherry- THE Magazine (April 2009)
With roots inextricably linked to a life of poverty, the black and white photographs of Sam Cherry intimately document writers and artists who live on the fringe of society and examine a “new homelessness” in Los Angeles during the 1980’s. Cherry’s candid documentation of writer Charles Bukowski demystifies an otherwise intimidating literary giant crouched on the toilet, arms folded staring vacantly and totally unaware of the presence of Cherry’s camera. The show also traces the creative hub of Bohemian San Francisco, the Black Cat owned by Charlie Habberkorn, a patron of the arts in the Bay area who frequently assisted many artists who were broke or starving. During the 1940’s the café was a gathering place for writers, artists, sculptors, and poets. The smoky interior of the café is photographed in deep focus, revealing wide-eyed and cheery customers crowded around small wood tables in the corner and a patron seated at the piano. Even the owner is seen sleeping against the wall with newspapers tucked behind his back, and his hand tucked inside of his trousers. For Cherry the Black Cat represents the best of times, when writers and artists could seek refuge in a forgiving environment, even if they couldn’t afford to pay for their meal. Skid Row in Los Angeles during the 1980’s however presents a much different view of life on the fringe, as hobos appear slumped over half empty liquor bottles and stare helplessly into the camera with open and empty hands. It’s hard to believe that less than 30 years ago, the site of the new art scene in Los Angeles was formerly Skid Row, a site that was intellectually, artistically, and financially starved and only occupied by garbage ridden alley-ways and lifeless bodies sleeping on cardboard boxes.