Photography and Story by Brenton Gieser
"Hello" in all of its variations is commonplace on the streets of the Tenderloin. So when I walked passed Taylor towards Eddy on a summer afternoon, it was only natural to give the two strangers holding down the corner an amiable head-nod and hello. This was my first encounter with James and his best friend Reg. James, being the more talkative of the two began asking me about myself: the "where you from", "what do you do" sorta thing. I told him "I'm a photographer", he responding by saying "I'm an artist". I asked him about his art, and he told me he was a graphic novelists, both a writer and illustrator. James explained that the spirit of his work centered around celebrating humanity in all its complexities, and by doing so in a simple and visually compelling fashion, he believed his work would resonate with all types of people.
Once talking fell short of describing his work, he told me to "hold on", and darted across Taylor Street towards his SRO. A minute or so later James was back on the corner with a freshly minted copy of "A Tenderloin Tale", his magnum opus at this point of his nascent career. I pulled $10 out of my wallet, and the exchange was made. Not the typical street corner transaction that is responsible for much of the neighborhood's surface level stigmata, but one that anecdotally illustrates the Tenderloin's rich arts tradition, as well as its confounding complexities.