Charles Bukowski (Tour in Skid Row), 1970 – Photograph by Sam Cherry
Charles Bukowski (Tour in Skid Row), 1970 (printed 2009)
Silver gelatin print on archival fiber based paper
16 x 20 inches
Edition of 12
This image was reproduced in the back of many the books Black Sparrow published.
"I had to coax Hank to get out of the car for this photograph. Sam had been telling stories of his days on skid row in the Great Depression of the 30s. "Hell, sometimes I write like I'm on the row, but I'm not. I feel like a phony," Hank said. As it turned out, he grew to love the image." – Sam Cherry
Sam Cherry’s Photographs of Charles Bukowski, The Black Cat, and Skid Row take the viewer on an historical journey through intimate moments with Charles Bukowski, the 1940s Bohemian scene at The Black Cat Café (San Francisco’s hub for the creative), and Los Angeles’ Skid Row in the 1980s.
Cherry was born in 1913 in Philadephia, the son of Russian emigrants who barely escaped persecution in the Ukraine. His father a tailor, dabbled in bootlegging whiskey in their basement. Eventually he was caught and jailed, and the entire family fled to Los Angeles where they lived in poverty for many years in Hollywood.
At the age of 16, Sam joined the ranks of thousands of downtrodden men and youth around the country, and hit the rails. He eventually settled in San Francisco, where he picked up a camera and began to capture the Great Depression – the down and out, the hungry, the vulnerable, crooked cops, religious fanatics, and Hobo Jungles. With a keen sense for composition and humanity, Sam turned his attention toward documenting his own pre-Beat Generation Bohemian scene at the The Black Cat Café in San Francisco, an establishment that encouraged a creative and lively environment frequented by artists, writers and the “fringe” element.
Years later, through mutual friends, Sam was introduced to the writer Charles Bukowski, who once stated that Sam Cherry’s tough character was an influential component in his creation of his own tough guy persona and protagonists. Cherry’s son, poet Neeli Cherkovski, and Bukowski became life-long friends, eventually starting their own literary magazine together. (Neeli would later write Bukowski’s biography). Sam and Neeli spent a great deal of time with Bukowski, during which Cherry captured took some of Bukowski’s most iconic images. In the early 1960s Sam opened up Cherry’s Bookstore and Art Gallery, an intellectual and artistic sanctuary in San Bernardino, well-known as a stopover for hippies and cultural explorers traveling along route 66.