On December 2, 2016, the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland stole the life of 20-year old Michela Gregory. Her father, photographer David Gregory, has never been the same.
“That just totally changed my life in a bad way. For a while, I thought I was never going to be able to take pictures anymore because I can’t go anywhere without thinking about her,” he says. “Sunrises are tough, sunsets. Everything has a double meaning now. But I try to keep going because that’s what she would want.”
Gregory, the son of an African-American father and an Italian mother, immigrated from Italy to San Francisco as a teenager in the 1980s. “I couldn’t speak English, even though my dad’s American. Every time he spoke to us in English, it felt like a punishment,” he explains. “I struggled to fit in for awhile.”
A mechanic by trade, Gregory purchased his first camera in 2012 and the hobby quickly became both a passion and an escape. “I call it freestyling. I jump in my car and go from neighborhood to neighborhood. When I go out and shoot, I put on my headphones and listen to music and I walk. You never know what you’re going to encounter,” he says, like the coyote he found just standing in the middle of Hyde Street early one morning. “It’s one of my favorites.”
While photography continues to spark Gregory’s creativity, he has recently begun to expand his artistic practice to include painting, too.
“I print some of my images on canvas and go over them with oil. It’s a work in progress and something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while. It’s looking pretty cool but I want to get better before I start posting them,” he explains.
“For me, the last couple of years have been really rough but I try to go out there and stay motivated,” Gregory says. “I love cityscapes, landscapes—it’s all beautiful to me. I just think the world is beautiful.”
Below, Gregory describes below how he got the shot on some of our favorite images from the streets of San Francisco. Follow him on Instagram at @gregoryd1.
The moody lights of San Francisco's Chinatown.(David Gregory, @gregoryd1)
"I was with a couple of friends and we were walking in Chinatown. The light was so cool. It was just one of those moments that everything comes in front of you and you react. I just love the way it looked. I was lucky to take a good picture," explains Gregory.
Reflections on a cable car.(David Gregory, @gregoryd1)
"This was on California Street right after the rain. I wanted to try and go find some reflections and I was walking near there and I was hoping there was a puddle so I could get the cable car. There’s many times when you take a picture thinking it’s going to look a certain way but once you go home and look at it on a larger screen it doesn’t come out like you were hoping. There are disappointments, but this one came out really good. It’s one of my favorites," Gregory says.
A peek of the Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Baker.(David Gregory, @gregoryd1)
"This one was taken from Fort Baker. It was low tide and a couple of friends and I were taking pictures. There was another photographer right at the spot I wanted to be but he looked so cool the way he was positioned with the pilings and the bridge in the background and the colors because it was sunset. It turned out to be a really good shot," Gregory explains.
"Sunrise" over San Francisco.(David Gregory, @gregoryd1)
"The sun is not supposed to be rising there. The sky itself was just gray but, because it was sunrise, I said let me just put the sun there. The sun usually rises way more to the right. Some people pointed it out and gave me a hard time about it, but I use some of the tools available to me to enhance some of my images. A lot of great photographers do that. At first i was against it, but i guess I feel like I’ve evolved a little bit more," says Gregory.
A woman feeds the seagulls behind the San Francisco Ferry Building.(David Gregory, @gregoryd1)
"This is my most favorite in a long time, something I witnessed and I happened to have my camera. A lady came up as I was walking on the Embarcadero by the Ferry Building. Once she got there, all these gulls came and she just started feeding them. It was just an awesome moment and i was really lucky to be there at the time to get the shot," remembers Gregory.