06/11/2013 02:27 pm ET

The Melancholy Beauty of San Francisco's Street Mattresses

Amanda Durbin

First-time visitors to San Francisco are forgiven for mistaking the city for a great natural preserve for free-range mattresses. The blocky bed-pads and their symbiotic box springs have emerged as a dominant species – sunbathing on sidewalks like albino porpoises, lackadaisically leaning against trees and mailboxes, rubbing grimy surfaces with discarded IKEA sofas in dark alleys. They're seemingly everywhere except where they belong, which is the dump or recycling center.

The Bay Area's weird preponderance of mattresses has become an obsession for local photographer Amanda Durbin, who's shot probably a "couple few hundred" of them since 2009. Durbin engaged her mattress fixture at first as a secret project, stalking her mysteriously stained quarry with old-school disposable cameras and a Canon AE-1. "No one even knew I took photos of mattresses," she says. "It was kind of weird and personal and explaining to my photo classmates or even to my friends why I did it seemed too tedious, so I took them for myself."

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