04/09/2013 02:45 pm ET Updated Apr 09, 2013

Classic San Francisco Photographs By Fred Lyon Give Engaging Glimpse Into City's Past

Often exhibitions of classic photography come off as museum pieces -- pretty but static, historically informative but lacking the ability to present a real window into the vibrant heartbeat of a bygone era.

The new set of gorgeous black-and-white photographs from San Francisco photographer Fred Lyon showing at San Francisco International Airport's Terminal Two Gallery, "San Francisco Yesterday 1948-1958," doesn't have that problem.


Lyon, a San Francisco native who studied under famed nature photographer Ansel Adams as a teen and snapped pictures of FDR while a Navy photographer during WWII, has a keen eye for capturing 1950s San Francisco in a way that's nostalgic without ever losing the sense of the city's everyday hustle and bustle .

"Two years ago, I was researching for an exhibition featuring historic images of San Francisco and the Bay Area from the 1940s–50s," explained Ramekon O'Arwisters, the airport's curator of exhibitions. "I was seeking images that captured the optimism and excitement of a city in transformation after World War II. Fred Lyon, a fourth-generation San Franciscan with an authentic photographic vision of his hometown, was the ideal choice."

"Lyon witnessed and photographed the transformation of San Francisco into a center for optimism, posterity, and growth," O'Arwisters added. "His black-and-white images of children playing on a makeshift boat and young sailors casually shopping at Fisherman's Wharf explore the idyllic past with hope and confidence."

Lyon's work in capturing San Francisco's very essence hasn't gone unnoticed by people, like former Mayor Willie Brown, who know a thing or two about what makes the city tick.

"Call them picture postcards with an edge, with an angle, a point of view and some with a message," wrote Brown in a contribution to Lyon's recently published book. "Although Fred won't like me to use that word 'message.' He says he looks until he likes what he sees and then he pushes that button. But followers of Fred's long photographic career note that he has been capturing the city's unique, sometimes strange, sometimes loopy, always exciting images for more than 60 years. And I buy on to that."

See photos from Lyon's exhibition below, and catch the entire exhibition at SFO's Terminal Two until May 31.

Fred Lyon: San Francisco Yesterday 1948–1958