How Flipboard CEO and My Son Inspired the New PhotowalksTV Meets Backroads Episodes

Jefferson Graham / July 22, 2022

With Sam Graham on dueling cameras

I’ve been friends with the folks at Flipboard going back to the beginning of the app, when I did an early piece for USA TODAY.

So it wasn’t unusual for me to hear from CEO Mike McCue after a recent episode of my PhotowalksTV series. Mike had just watched the Morro Bay installment of the travel photography series, he told me that he really enjoyed it and added that I reminded him of the host of the old Bay Area Backroads series, which aired in the San Francisco area in the 1980s and 90s.

“Have you ever heard of him?” Mike asked.

“Heard of my dad?…of course.”

My first meeting with Flipboard CEO Mike McCue, in 2010, on Flipboard’s “Red Couch.”

In a follow-up e-mail, after I said, “You really didn’t know?” that I was the son of the late Jerry Graham, who died in 2013, Mike added: “I had no idea. What an amazing thing to see the natural connection between you and your dad that to me is so clear.”

A few weeks earlier, my son Sam, an artist living in Japan, had suggested to me that since I also had a travel series, it was time to re-trace some of Jerry’s steps on upcoming Photowalks episodes and see how things have changed.

The two of them were onto something.

Cut to today, and the first two of my four Photowalks meets Backroads series of episodes are now live, thanks to Mike and Sam. They inspired me to get these done, and boy am I glad they did. They’re a little more personal, and I’m thrilled to bring my dad to a new audience.

I’m also thrilled that Flipboard is sponsoring the series, continuing our association that was renewed after I left USA TODAY in 2021 to focus full-time on Photowalks, both with the series, which is seen on YouTube, the Roku Channel and Tubi and live events.

So how did I go about merging some old Backroads footage with present day material?

The few Backroads clips that are on YouTube are in poor, ultra-low 360p quality. Luckily, I had remained in contact with Jeff Pierce, the original photographer of the Backroads series and learned that he had some of the original (higher resolution) tapes.

I found a place in Oakland, where Jeff lives, to convert them into digital. He dropped them off there and I had the digital copies on a hard drive within a week.

In the mail came digital copies of Backroads episodes in Mendocino, and San Francisco’s Chinatown, Mission District and North Beach, the Little Italy section of the city. Much of the footage was hard to use because they had copyrighted background music. But there was enough there to make it work.

My original hope was to do a Natalie Cole/Nat King Cole type super-imposition of both of us in the frame, but I couldn’t pull it off.

So I improvised. In Mendocino, for instance, Jerry walks down Main Street, so I then walk down the same street, in the same spot. Jerry goes to the Visitor Center and walks out the back door. I do the same thing.

Luckily, for a town where time has stood still, Mendocino Main Street of 2022 still looks eerily just like Main Street of 1991. Chinatown of San Francisco is identical to what Jerry Graham saw, with the exception of some businesses that are long gone. North Beach is still very Italian, albeit with a new round of restaurants. In the Mission District, Jerry visited the historic Mission Delores, which is the oldest intact building in San Francisco, first built way back in 1776. To my delight, nothing had changed there.

Photowalks is a series aimed at the mobile photography lover. I invite you to take a trip with me to some great places, I show you around and offers tips on the best places to photograph and how to up your photography game.

On the Mendocino episode, for instance, I show how to take a bland white sky behind a lighthouse and color the sky blue or how to use the iPhone’s most under-rated tool: the ability to shoot Timelapse videos that show the world moving at top speed, like clouds at 60 mph and such. They are so easy to make and beautiful to look at.

I invite everyone to meet me on Flipboard’s Photowalkers group magazine for more tips and tricks, and more detailed discussion about the shots seen in the show. You are invited to share and contribute your photos there as well. But you’ll need an invite from me first: write me at photowalkstv@gmail.com

New episodes of PhotowalksTV launch every Saturday morning.

— Jefferson Graham is curating Photowalkers group magazine

Jefferson Graham is a Los Angeles writer-photographer, host of the “PhotowalksTV” travel photography series, co-hosts the iPhone Photo Show podcast and pens the popular PhotowalksTV newsletter on Substack. A former USA TODAY columnist, he has several magazines on Flipboard curating his interests in photography and technology, most notably the “Photowalkers” magazine, which offers tips and tricks on smartphone photography, as well as favorite snaps from his travels.