Fire Season Hits Home

 

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We wake to a Friday after five days of fire in the North Bay.  With more than 100 acres scorched, dozens dead, and fires still going.  A “hellish” week for those who have had to feel the heat in the flesh.

The ominous smell of smoke lingers over our heads reminding of the loss already had and the impending loss that sparking embers fly with.  I know I’m not the only praying that tonight’s cold air helps the firefight.

May tomorrow bring extinguished flames and cleaner air to our region.

–JMG

Shutting Down Hate: Right-wing Nationalists Retreat in the 2nd Battle of Berkeley

On Sunday, August 27th a right-wing nationalist rally was scheduled to happen at Martin Luther King Jr. Park, in Berkeley’s civic center.  The planned hate party was cancelled last minute over “safety” concerns from its organizers.   The same predicament had played out the day before in San Francisco, where the organized response to a similar planned rally prompted thousands to march and openly denounce bigotry, racism, and organized hate in their city.  What was sensationalized and projected to be a violent weekend of clashes with white nationalists and a left of center responses became an overwhelming, unified response against the hate espoused by neo-Nazis, white Nationalists, and  conservative xenophobes from the San Francisco and East Bay community.

Given the outcome of the first battle in Berkeley on April 26th earlier this year and the rage prompted by Charlottesville a few weeks ago, I anticipated a strong response from the Antifa factions that were humiliated as they were punched, kicked, and run out of the  civic center last April.  Numerous response rallies marched to what many might have imagined was going to be a Berkeley civic center crawling with hate-groups and angry far-Right wingers by late afternoon.  What they found was the remnants of a loud, and often volatile debate on hate.  Although hate-groups passed on showing up, individuals whose Right-wing, racist convictions are strong enough to risk the public ridicule made their presence known.  Just like in Charlottesville, those who came defending far-Right ideas and Trump’s hate mongering agenda were debated, shouted at, and ultimately run out of the grounds.

Exiting the park I had heavy feeling in my heart that had me thinking of Dr. King.  Although the rage and indignity arises from love, I couldn’t help but to feel the ruse of power among us.  I felt no one won that day.  That’s the tragedy of it all. The powder keg was lit in Charlottesville, the clown President gave the flame oxygen, and now we have more tragedy ahead of us.

Interesting times for my camera’s lens, but such a sad state of affairs in the nation.

RIP Heather Heyer.

— JMG, Berkley CA

 

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Homes for the Homeless

 

Gentrification in the East Bay has prompted a rise in homelessness across the region. Outcrops of camps have lined freeway underpasses, abandoned lots, and city corners with enough space to pitch tents. The shots in this series depict the struggle for affordable housing and the manner in which life gravitates around this homeless camp on the Berkley/Oakland border. What in days past has been called the he invisible face of homelessness has become more and more visible and familiar to us as a surge of people around us fall from the grace of stability and are forced to live in tents.

This is the first installment of a series that seeks to invite the public to stop, take a closer look, and prompt viewers to begin an internal or public dialogue about the crisis in homelessness Oakland is currently experiencing.

–JMG

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The Glow Of Sublimating Truth

Not quite in view is a dry ice sculpture by Judy Chicago, executed at the SF MOMA on April 26, 2017. The sculpture spelled out the word TRUTH, then it was lit up with road flares to precipitate the sublimation of the dry ice. The piece is a metaphor for the way “truth” is treated in the current political landscape. From “alternative facts” to “fake news,” the weight and reliability of facts seem to be fleeting more and more. I like the way this picture communicates that nothing but a pink haze is left behind when truth is obliterated.

I’m keeping photos of the actual sculpture in the vault. This sort of documentary photography usually carries more artistic value years after the fact. It was great to work with Judy, Donald, and their crew on this once in a lifetime experience. It was a total honor to touch history with my lens.

–JMG

The Magic Carpets of Town Park

Oakland’s Defremery Park has a special place in Oakland history because of the role it played in the late 60s to convene Oakland’s black community in defense of Huey P. Newton when he was charged for the murder of a police officer.  Town Park’s history is relatively recent but the spirit of the Black Panthers struggles for equal protection and civic participation is not lost since the funds to build out Town Park were raised by and for the West Oakland community.  Empowering projects like this are remarkable because they also empower those who both work on and benefit from opening public space.

Taken during one of Oakland’s most meaningful, community driven festivals, Life Is Living, this set captures the dynamic energy and form.    Beside the main stage, good food, and healthy, balanced living theme, I often visit to see the Extreme sports that go on in a section of Defremery Park known as Town Park.  In true gonzo photography fashion, what the camera froze on frame shows that the lens is an active participant in the way subject’s act and react in front of it.  I went of my way to publish some of these because it was evident the young men in them went out of their way to give me fabulous shots.  I was very appreciative of their “hard skating” and the way they tolerated an intruding eye as they glide and bust tricks on their magic carpets.

–JMG