Everywhere I am headed, there are mattresses lining the streets and alleyways of San Francisco. Near the end of 2011, I vowed to carry my DSLR with me just about everywhere I went. In order to keep this up I wanted a subject to photograph on a regular basis. Something consistent. The mattresses would do. Rectangular, flat, textured, layered and often still being utilized. They were challenging – there are only a number of ways a mattress may be framed – and yet were always situated around interesting backgrounds. Once I was on the prowl, I noticed they were omnipresent in virtually every neighborhood, in various states of existence and often felt they were left on the streets with purpose. Mattresses lurked in the shadows. They graced city landmarks. They were up. They were flat. They were dry. They were wet. They sat alone and sometimes were in clusters. When I found one sunken into the sand at Ocean Beach, being pulled into the outgoing tide, I knew my mission was sound.

Photo by Aberswyth Van Bueren, 2012

It’s been a lovely surprise to see how a series may evoke such extended conversations about where the mattresses may have come from, why they were discarded, how they were presented and where they are going. Several friends and colleagues have even sent me specimens of their own from around SF, California and on the East Coast. While initially, most of my interests lied in the location and placement of the mattresses. Now, I am drawn into the lives of the homeless who often occupy them.

After capturing thousands of mattresses, with each incarnation of Mattress City, I hope to explore all the possibilities the series can offer and keep dialogues going.

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