Revisiting the Story Behind That Aerial Shot of SF’s Illuminated Pink Triangle

This year, San Francisco’s pink triangle returned to its familiar form: a textured shape that doesn’t light up come nightfall. But in 2022, the symbol of resilience glew like a cotton-candy-colored torch in the night.

Amid the pandemic’s darker moments of 2020, San Francisco Pride’s virtual festivities offered a Zoom-able balm during a time marked by colorless days, weeks, and months.

There were digital dance parties; the Queen Diva herself, Big Freedia, headlined SF Pride’s 50th-anniversary festivities; the cruising at Corona Heights Parks was, however, a non-existent affair. But Twin Peaks did light up with thousands of LEDs that year, each emitting a purple hue and assembled in a way to resemble the city’s Pink Triangle installation installed during Pride Month.

The latter public light artwork display was welcomed back with open arms in 2021 and 2022. Though the illuminated triangle didn’t return for 2023, hundreds of volunteers descended on Twin Peaks last week to install what’s now the largest pink triangle installation to ever grace the SF hillside. Giant, quasi-reflective pink canvases combined to represent the large geometric shape, which has become a symbol of resilience and community in San Francisco since the tradition began in 1995.

Like past iterations, the canvased pink triangle is up for Pride Month and viewable until July 1st — observable from as far as 20 miles away. But because we’re feeling a bit nostalgic as of late, let’s revisit this *gorgeous* shot of last year’s illuminated pink triangle.

Patrick Carney, the co-founder of the Pink Triangle, made the announcement in 2022 that the illuminated Pink Triangle would return for last year’s Pride festivities in SF. Carney said that Illuminate — the organization behind the now-turned-off Bay Lights and other bright art projects around the region — worked its magic to install 2,700 LED nodes of pink lights on the triangle, in lieu of some 200 pink tarps that are usually laid out to form the shape.

The illuminated Pink Triangle became a literal beacon of hope, resilience, and strength since it debuted as a spin on the traditional canvas example.

It was endlessly gorgeous from every angle; it elicited double takes that put a strain on your lower neck when it inevitably peeks through the fog come sundown.

Though, because Twin Peaks is 922 feet above sea level, it’s rather hard to get a bird’s-eye view of the installation — unless you’re Bay Area photographer JJ Meeks, who snapped an aerial shot of the illuminated pink triangle last year. And we’re still obsessed with a picture a year later.

“I captured this shot with my drone,” Meeks told me in an email, noting that he didn’t really use any “particular tricks” to get the image. Plus: the local shutterbug didn’t live too far from this particular location

Initially, the pink triangle — a reclaimed symbol from the Nazis during the 1970s as a stamp of queer solidarity and retaliation against homophobia — didn’t mean all too much to Meek. But living in San Francisco for now coming up on two decades and working in tandem with the LGBTQIA+ community on many projects, the meaningful emblem has grown to become important to him.

“The triangle never meant much to me years ago. But now, having worked in the community for fifteen years, it should be important to everyone supporting gay rights,” Meek adds. “It means more to many of my friends and coworkers, and they mean a lot to me.”

Thanks to Meek, we’ve got a whole new vantage point to appreciate that layered symbolism well beyond the month of June.

Feature image: Courtesy of JJ Meeks

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