Mission District by Jin Zhu in San Francisco, California, USA

Mission street vendors and shopfronts display haphazard medleys of wares that I can never quite make sense of. Religious imagery is mixed with tchotchkes. Murals are everywhere. This is one of the most colorful places in the city, and when fog rolls into the rest of the city, the Mission tends to stay sunny, so it is perfect for photography. I’m drawn to the colors and afternoon light.

Name:Jin Zhu

Place you live: Frisco!

Occupation: Photographer

Preoccupation: Color, song, tribalism, climate change

Place your photos were taken: Mission District

Can you sum up the place you live? I live on the boundary of the Mission. It’s a predominantly Latino neighborhood, but in recent years, starting with the dot com boom, gentrification has unfortunately pushed many Latino families and artists out. Still, it’s a lively place where you can easily find art, nightlife, burritos by the ton, dollar stores, and lucha libre masks.

A perfect day in San Francisco? A late start. Go down the street to the Saturday farmer’s market before meeting a friend for lunch. Lay around in Dolores Park talking, reading and people-watching. Run into artists making Occupy screen prints while shooting on the street in fading light. Blow bubbles and fire off poppers at a sing-a-long movie screening at the Castro Theater, and end the night with a croissant straight from the oven at our corner donut shop which, our noses have determined, produces a fresh batch at 11:30pm. Stay up reading and doing a jigsaw puzzle.

For the visitor? Go to the Camera Obscura. As a photographer, it’s an interesting inversion to be inside a camera. We’re so used to the look of digital screens and recorded video that it’s mesmerizing to see a moving image projected into a room with simple apertures and mirrors. It makes you appreciate light almost as a living thing. Enjoy the ocean, then come by the Mission! If you’re into experimental film, go to ATA, if you’re into emerging art, go to Southern Exposure. If you’re into getting mopped, go to the Pirate Store at 826 Valencia.

A perfect meal in S.F.? I have a weakness for soup noodles. I love Saiwaii Ramen so much I’ve thought about moving to the Sunset. Get the one with everything in it and then throw in all the add-ons too. I’m a big fan of mishmash. Cafe Ethiopia is a contender too – eat with your hands!

What is the best thing about your spot? San Francisco is in that sweet spot of urban enough to be interesting but not so dense that everyone is on top of each other. It’s relaxed, but there’s no end of interesting characters. It’s a good day when you run into the guy who rides a bike with speakers attached blasting music. A large naked woman in sneakers just marched into traffic and stomped in the windshield of a car on our corner last week… and the guy in the car turned out to be a Once Magazine editor. Maybe that’s a little too much excitement, but it’s definitely never dull.

What is the worst? The expense. Rent control helps and there are ways to live cheaply, but the city would be much more mixed and interesting if it wasn’t so expensive. As a result, there’s also a great arts scene in Oakland, where it’s cheaper.

A little known fact about San Francisco? I just read that Chinatown was once quarantined and blocked off with barbed wire fences in the 1900s because of a suspected plague death. No one could leave for three months.

Where is your favorite place in the world? I feel at home in the coastal Northwest. Every once in a while I drive out to a rocky spot along by the ocean a little ways north of here. Elsewhere, I never tire of the landscape in Utah and Northern Arizona – so alien, monumental and ancient. It’s a trip to think about geological processes on such a huge scale.