The negatives sat for years in a file cupboard. They turned him right into a star S.F. photographer at age 80

It was applicable that photographer Fred Lyon died in August, the foggiest month in San Francisco.

He was at his finest capturing the temper of the mist within the dim glow of a avenue lamp in the dark on a darkish alley in North Seaside. By day he shot the steep streets with big-finned American vehicles parked on the angle, and the ironwork on the Golden Gate Bridge. No matter he shot had the impact of a movie noir: black-and-white and melancholy.

Lyon’s documentary profession began when he photographed President Roosevelt on the White Home as a Navy photographer throughout World Struggle II and didn’t finish till he captured the neon cocktail glass on the signal on the 500 Membership within the Mission District in 2017. For that shoot, he was on the market at night time in his mid-90s, nonetheless tall and thin as a lamppost. His spouse, Penny Rozis, needed to brace him so he wouldn’t fall off the curb and get hit by a automotive on Guerrero Avenue as he framed his photographs. With 5 books behind him, he had two extra within the works when he died Aug. 22 at his residence on Lyon Avenue in Cow Hole. He was 97.

“Fred had such a zest for all times, and he completely liked making photos,” Rozis stated. “He at all times stated one of the vital necessary {qualifications} for any occupation was curiosity, and he had infinite curiosity.”

He was inquisitive about excessive vogue, which provided him a residing in New York Metropolis after the battle as a business photographer capturing division retailer adverts and editorial content material for the massive nationwide magazines like “Vogue.” He was inquisitive about inside design, which acquired him jobs for the likes of “Home and Backyard.” He labored his manner as much as freelance assignments for “Life,” and “Time,” and was capturing assignments for “Sports activities Illustrated” even earlier than its launch in 1954. He shot journey spreads for “Vacation.”

“Fred is a throughline for twentieth century images,” Philip Meza, a guide and author, who penned a biography of Lyon. “You possibly can inform that story by utilizing Fred’s profession. You will have vogue, shelter magazines, information magazines, advert homes throughout the ‘Mad Males’ period and wonderful artwork.”

Lyon by no means thought the time period “wonderful artwork” utilized to his photographs. When he returned to San Francisco within the Fifties, he began going out at night time as a pastime after days of capturing business initiatives.

“I didn’t need my digital camera to chill off,” is how he as soon as defined it to a Chronicle reporter. “There are issues about this metropolis that don’t change. And I do love these.”

He by no means printed his negatives, which sat for many years in a field buried within the backside drawer of a file cupboard in his studio close to the Marina Safeway. He was 80 when he lastly acquired curious sufficient to stoop down and pull out that envelope and what he noticed “made me somewhat scared,” he later recalled. What he had seen would give him a second profession that introduced him extra acclaim than the primary one did.

The contents of that field gave Lyon his first guide, “San Francisco Then,” printed in 2005. The identical physique of labor introduced a second guide, “Portrait of a Metropolis, 1940-1960,” printed by Princeton Architectural Press in 2014, and an exhibition, “Fred Lyon-San Francisco,” at Leica Retailer & Gallery close to Union Sq.. Princeton additionally launched a follow-up, “San Francisco Noir” (2018). His fourth guide, “Vineyards” (2019), showcased his colour photographs from the Napa Valley, Chile, France, Germany and Greece. His fifth guide, “Inventing the California Look by way of the Lens of Fred Lyon,” featured his business inside design work, and got here out this yr.

“The large factor about Fred was he lived within the current 100%. He was solely within the now and doing issues now,” stated Michael Home, who made the one-hour 2014 documentary “Fred Lyon: Dwelling Via the Lens.”

“He was at all times making new photographs and at all times concerned in new endeavors. This made him a splendidly fulfilled man,” Home stated.

Frederick George Lyon was born Sept. 27, 1924, at St. Luke’s Hospital within the Mission District. His father had farming pursuits and the household moved to the Peninsula, first to San Carlos after which Burlingame. Lyon acquired his first digital camera at age 12, and by age 14 he was exhibiting expertise. His mother and father allowed him to maneuver away from residence at 17 with a view to attend the Artwork Middle in downtown Los Angeles, the place he was chosen to spend a summer season photographing Yosemite, below Ansel Adams, who was then on the school.

When Lyon turned 18, he joined the Navy with the intent of changing into a pilot within the battle effort. He made it into flight coaching in Florida, however there was a surplus of pilots, so was assigned to a images unit in Washington, D.C.

As soon as there, he acquired the job capturing the Roosevelt household portrait and ended up in his Navy uniform, the tallest particular person within the room, capturing President Truman at his first press convention.

After the battle he moved to New York and acquired business work as a vogue photographer, the place he met mannequin Ann Murray. They have been married in 1952 in New York and settled in Sausalito, the place they raised two sons, Michael and Gordon. He spent lots of time crossing the Golden Gate Bridge commuting to business shoots and have become curious concerning the bridge itself.

This led to his solely museum exhibition, “The Bridges of San Francisco: Perceptive Pictures by Fred Lyon,” on the Legion of Honor in 1955.

Ann Lyon died in 1989. 4 years later, Lyon bumped into Penny Rozis, an inside designer. They met on a shoot within the Seventies and reconnected. She employed him to do an inside shoot at an property in Brentwood and that was adopted by business shoots at a seaside home in Santa Barbara and a mountain home in Solar Valley. Their relationship solely blossomed from there.

For 20 years they lived in a Pacific Heights rental that required mountaineering up 4 flights to achieve. When Lyon reached age 87, he determined he’d had sufficient stairs they usually moved to a first-floor rental in Cow Hole.

Lyon moved his studio to the basement of the rental constructing, however he by no means stopped going to work, although he did transfer his begin time from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. His ritual scotch-and-water was not till 6 p.m., although if friends arrived, he’d combine up a batch of Manhattans.

Lyon favored to repeat the Billy Crystal line, “It’s extra necessary to look good than to really feel good,” and he was debonair and charming till the tip, in a black or grey turtleneck and black-framed owl glasses.

He left behind two unfinished guide initiatives — his photographs of the American West, and a guide of his images he deliberate to market to children. He knew that subject nicely, having began his profession as one.

“I’ve been at this now since I used to be 14,” he stated in 2010, “and I’ve to inform you, I’ve by no means been bored.”

Survivors embrace his spouse, Penny Rozis of San Francisco; sons, Michael Lyon of Sopchoppy, Fla., and Gordon Lyon of Santa Fe, N.M.; and stepson, Pavlos Rozis of Chicago.

Sam Whiting is a San Francisco Chronicle workers author. E-mail: swhitin[email protected] Twitter: @SamWhitingSF

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