Joseph Selle (1906-1988) operated as Fox Movie Flash (at 942 Market Street in San Francisco) from the late 1930s until his retirement in the 1970s. Selle and photographers he hired operated as bonded, uniformed street photographers primarily in the Union Square area, San Francisco’s predestrian dense, primary retail space of that era. Their simple business model was to photograph pedestrians usually without asking permission, then handing them a numbered ticket in hopes the tourist, or the dressed up shopper, or the couple on a date would purchase sight-unseen the small, inexpensive souvenir photograph delivered later by mail. By sheer hustle – taking 100s of grab shots daily – Selle and his associates were successful at this business over a period of many years. They became fixtures around Union Square, and must have also been recognizable from frequent trips to the parking area at Cliff House. At his retirement in the 1970s, Joseph Selle donated to Rochester’s Visual Studies Workshop the film negatives – over a million frames – on 1000 rolls of 35mm movie film – each 100 ft long. The surviving film negatives date from the 1950s-1970s.
(Copyright © Andrew Eskind)