Terminal 3

December 2013 - February 2014
Ruins on the Coastal Edge: Views from San Francisco’s Sutro Baths by Kenneth Leaf

Ruins on the Coastal Edge: Views from San Francisco’s Sutro Baths by Kenneth Leaf

While versed in digital and analog, I have a passion for using traditional black-and-white photographic methods. I still find switching on the light to see developed film or prints for the first time magical. Advances in digital technology and merging of old and new photographic possibilities have expanded my artistic world in very exciting ways.

Kenneth Leaf
San Francisco, California


San Francisco’s Sutro Baths, once a privately owned, state-of-the-art public bath facility, was famous for being the largest structure for indoor swimming in the world, having the capacity to serve thousands. Adolph Sutro, a wealthy entrepreneur and the twenty-fourth mayor of the city, opened the park in 1896. Beautifully designed of glass, iron, wood, and reinforced concrete, which housed an amphitheater, promenades, museum, sky tram, and later, an ice skating rink, Sutro Baths was a popular attraction for residents and tourists for seventy years. Soon after closing in 1966, the buildings burned in a fire; only the concrete pool foundations remain.

Captivated by the mystery and magic of Sutro Baths as viewed by moonlight, photographer Kenneth Leaf has photographed the site since 1995. He works at night using large format cameras to capture his images. Leaf works outdoors in dim light and with wide apertures that allow light to slowly strike the film, producing exposure times that often last more than an hour. The effects of long exposure time reveal the movement of waves crashing against the shoreline while lights from ships, airplanes, and stars appear as rays of light and mist over the water.

Leaf, who was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, left his hometown in 1988 with a 35mm camera and a motorcycle for a month-long photographic journey throughout the Southwest, eventually arriving in California. The experience ignited his passion for photography. He has studied photography at the University of Minnesota and City College of San Francisco. His desire to explore and photograph has taken him to Peru, Mexico, Spain, and Turkey.

©2013 by the San Francisco Airport Commission. All rights reserved