Picturing Black History

Photographs and stories that changed the world

A collaboration of     and    

Clarence Gatson Collection

The Clarence Gatson collection comprises the personal archive of San Francisco photographer Clarence Gatson. From 1975 until his passing in 1992, Gatson served as photographer and production manager for the Sun Reporter, the paper-of-record for the San Francisco Bay Area’s African American community.

Photo by Clarence Gatson/Gado/Getty Images
(Original Caption) College students wearing caps and gowns, during a graduation ceremony, San Francisco, California, 1991

Mr. Gatson was deeply involved in the Los Angeles entertainment scene, and his photos include candid shots of Whitney Houston, Tupac Shakur, and countless other entertainers, many of whom he knew personally. In addition, the collection includes hundreds of unique portraits documenting the everyday lives of San Franciscans as they traversed turbulent and challenging events, including Jonestown and the AIDS epidemic.

Image of Flavor Flav standing with  Tupac Shakur

Photo by Clarence Gatson/Gado/Getty Images
(Original Caption) Flavor Flav, standing with rapper Tupac Shakur, greets fans backstage during the 1989 American Music Awards, Los Angeles, California, January 30, 1989.

“Understanding of the period of rising consciousness in San Francisco among its [B]lack population is greatly enhanced by the Clarence Gatson collection,” said historian John William Templeton following the collection’s launch in 2014. “One can see a common look of liberation and confidence in his subjects that speaks to his keen cultural mastery as a photographer, journalist, poet, artist and musician.”

See more of the collection here.

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