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Vanishing San Francisco: Scenes From Thee Oh Sees Frontman John Dwyer’s ‘Vinegar Mirror’

The Bay Area rock luminary walks us through exclusive stills from his first photo book

By: Sam Lefebvre // November 13, 2013

Thee Oh Sees bandleader John Dwyer tours six months out of the year and has released 12 albums of serrated, psychedelic rock’n’roll since 2006 alone. Long a cornerstone of San Francisco’s music community, his home in the city’s Mission District has been arranged to increase productivity, a flyer-laden hallway leading to rooms for both rehearsal and screen-printing. And on a recent October afternoon, Dwyer opened Vinegar Mirror, his first volume of photography, while chain-smoking over tea in his backyard. With over 200 photographs taken between 2010 and 2013, the book depicts international locales as diverse as Dwyer’s tour routing, anthropomorphic double-exposure experiments, and candid shots of friend and peer Ty Segall. It’s a realistic glimpse into the twilight debauchery and tepid afternoons of a journeyman musician.

But Vinegar Mirror also captures recently shuttered local clubs and disbanded groups. And after 16 years of both living in San Francisco and feverishly exporting its music to national audiences, Dwyer is planning to leave for Los Angeles. He isn’t cynical about new Bay Area bands, but he’s openly frustrated by the ever-expanding tech industry’s encroachment upon once-affordable neighborhoods. And as he exuberantly relates the stories behind the book’s images, they reaffirm his fear that this may be the end of an epoch — though one he won’t forget.

Vinegar Mirror is out now on Vacation. Here are a few samples.