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Bittersweet Portraits of People in San Francisco Living in Boats, Cars, Garages, Trailers, and Tents

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Chinese born, California based photographer Wenxin Zhang created Goodnight Stories during a time in 2011 when she was a new comer to San Francisco. Feeling anxiety about this new environment and the pressure to be a young adult, she sought after strangers with whom to connect. Taking to the internet, she found a community of people who have found alternative housing conditions and asked permission to photograph them at home. The result is a fairy-tale like narrative that blurs the lines between reality and fantasy.

Zhang emphasizes that mutual trust was crucial to this project. Her subjects welcomed her into their homes without hesitation. They reside in boats, cars, garages, trailers, and tents.

According to Zhang, “at first glance, Goodnight Stories seems sweet and romantic, but in reality, people who have alternative living situations can have very bitter lives as well. Some of them suffer from bankruptcy, poverty, health problems or depression. Sometimes being different from the majority can be very hard.”

Throughout the series, Zhang carefully weaves in a narrative of a sweet bedtime story between a mother and child. The child, unsure if she’ll be able to afford a home when she grows up, is comforted by her mother, who subtly tells her that home is where you make it.

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All images © Wenxin Zhang

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