Going to photo galleries in NYC, which I did religiously from the mid seventies until 1998, was not unlike... attending (Catholic) church. No one from on high (from the pulpit to the high heavens) would ever actually engage you personally- usually, you'd leave as if you'd seen and heard it all before; at best, you left inspired to do your best. Catholicism, of course, is big on ceremony and hierarchy, and unfortunately, often a top down experience- accept the dogma, no need to question.
Photo galleries in NYC operate in similar manner to this very day. The big ones are imposing and sacrosanct- they, through their good graces, are letting you enter and partake... at a distance. Your silence and deference is part and parcel of the understood contractual agreement. Unless you are actually buying and dealing with those in the inner sanctum, you will be tolerated (begrudgingly).
Photo galleries in San Francisco can look like those in NY, but they are generally smaller and fewer in number. And oddly, very oddly, gallery owners and directors will at times, rare as they may be, actually stop, acknowledge and converse with anonymous gallery goers like myself. Such blatant breach in protocol would never, ever occur in a NY gallery. In fact, as previously mentioned here, the only interaction I remember a gallerist initiating in NY was two weeks post 9/11 when an owner saw me and quickly turned and fled, sheer terror on her face, into the safety of her back room. Didn't even have time to inform her I was just your average, everyday New Yorican. Somehow, she had intuited that Muslim terrorists as myself had downed the towers as mere diversion- the unmitigated destruction of New York's photo galleries was the real jihadi prize galore.
Recently, not one, but two staff members on two separate occasions have asked me what they thought of their shows as they exited their offices at The Fraenkel Gallery. Gallerists Stephen Wirtz (sadly, his gallery is now closed) and Ann Jastrab have also voluntarily made the effort to interact with gallery goers. It is one of the positives that help distinguish galleries in San Francisco, something I fear may not last much longer as more and more money pours into this city, along with the people who feel that we must defer to them.