San Francisco: Aftermath of Earthquake (1906)
Synopsis: Images of the aftermath of the earthquake that devastated San Francisco in 1906.
Although it all looks sadly familiar to us in the 21st Century, this document of the devastation wrought by the San Francisco earthquake in 1906 must have been an astonishing spectacle for audiences of the day. This was the first major natural disaster American cameras had captured on their home soil, and it was therefore the first time people who had not been caught up in such disasters had actually seen the kind of devastation they wrought.
San Francisco: Aftermath of Earthquake opens with a shot of a raging fire seen through tilting telegraph poles and goes on to show the various ways in which the earthquake totally uprooted the people of San Francisco. The vestiges of streets in which the buildings have been reduced to rubble puts one in mind of the ravaged cities blasted by bombs in World War II; dazed onlookers, dressed in formal attire, gaze on without moving as the disenfranchised pass by on carriages loaded with their meagre belongings; steel tramlines are uprooted from their concrete beds, and businesses declare they are still open behind mounds of rubble. It all makes for fascinating, if ultimately sad, viewing.
(Reviewed 24th September 2014)