9:10 p.m.: A Flask Mobber plays with a favored prop-steel wool, which, as it turns out, sparks when lit.
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8:10 p.m.: Flask Mobbers gather to watch someone twirl a glow stick, hoping to catch the light trails on film.
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8:06 p.m.: Before the group departs from Sue Bierman Park, an organizer asks the mob to turn their phone flashlights on for a group photo. In customary Flask Mob fashion, one member takes it a step further and lights a firework.
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Under a darkening sky, hundreds of photographers gather at a park near the Embarcadero, exchange Instagram handles, sip from flasks and forties, and await an adventure. Some carry professional-grade gear, others humble iPhones, and the more ambitious come armed with smoke bombs and fireworks. They’re here for Flask Mob, a loose collective that meets monthly to roam around the city taking photos and, yes, drinking.
At the center of the ragged crowd is 23-year-old Evan Thompson, who got into photography (and photography under the influence) in 2009 as a result of a move from San Diego to San Francisco, where he knew no one. “I needed some kind of outlet,” he says. He began posting his shots on Tumblr and soon racked up some 18,000 fans of his stunning nightscapes, scarily high angles, and saturated colors—but still found himself alone. “Not a soul in S.F. knew me,” he says. “I was always shooting by myself.” So he decided to reach out to other local photographers on social media. The first meeting of Flask Mob, in November 2013, drew about 50 attendees. These days it brings in around 300, and this month, it will expand to Los Angeles. Though Thompson is now something of a celebrity among street photographers, he can still be found at Flask Mob, flitting through the crowd and checking up on people—especially those who come alone.
Originally published in the August issue of San Francisco