We’ve loved working with traveler/writer Alexander Barrett since the beginning. From our beloved Portland to Shanghai and soon San Francisco, Alex’s eye for the unique little details in the cities he features continues to be spot on and enjoyable. Years ago, 2015 to be exact, we interviewed Alex for the release of This is Shanghai, and this week we decided to catch up with him and revisit those questions for a update.
1. Where are you *right now* and what is the most important thing to know about what’s going on around you there?
Right now, I’m in my apartment in San Francisco, looking out over the city. I’ve lived here just long enough to think that the new Salesforce tower is ruining the skyline. Oof that thing. Today was “Sunday Streets” on Valencia in the Mission. They close the street to traffic and line it with musicians, dancers, and tables dedicated to local non-profits. I just watched a bunch of hippies play Jefferson Airplane covers to a small group of dancing children. “When the truth is found to be lies and all the joy within you dies…” It was the first time I really listened to those lyrics. The kids really responded to them.
2. I know it’s crass to ask, but when you aren’t making charming illustrated books about places you’re getting to know, what exactly do you do for a living?
I have a job. I’ve had the job for three years. I still don’t know exactly what it is. But I go there and I do stuff. When it started, I was a copywriter working on branding for YouTube. Then I convinced some higher ups to let me buy a Risograph Printer. Now I mostly print fun stuff and show other people how to print fun stuff.
3. What’s your favorite book that you’ve read this year?
I read Tamara Shopsin’s Arbitrary and Stupid Goal a few months ago. I really like the format of her books. It’s not unlike the way I’ve structured mine. Very staccato. But her chapters bounce all over the place through time, topic, and location. Such a wonderful experience.
4. What’s next for you? And finally, the question on everyone’s mind: Where will you live next?
I’ve lived in San Francisco for three years, which is the longest I’ve lived anywhere in a long time. I think I’ll stick around for a while. I won’t be in this city forever, but they have nice baked goods here. For the time being, I’m going to be in this apartment and explore the way I make things.
Looking back, the process of making these three books feels so similar. But looking at the final products, I think I’ve gotten better at it. I think This is San Francisco is the best and most complete project I’ve ever made. That feels good.