Last Call in Oakland (Diptych)

There’s a bar in Oakland (which I won’t mention by name here to keep it out of the wrong ears) that has a fun tradition where the bartenders light the bar on fire when they make the last call for drinks.  It’s places like this that have shifted the tide in night life in Oakland.

Being a transplant from Los Angeles, I too went through the phase where I thought I had to go to “the city” (a.k.a San Francisco) to find down-to-earth, unpolished, almost grimy joints where unique progressive folk of all classes gather for a drink.  If that’s what you are looking for and live in or near Oakland you can join me in saying, “Forget San Francisco!”  Seriously,  its been months since I’ve felt the need to dip into the coolness of the city because Oakland IS where it’s at.   If this shot doesn’t convince you of the fact that Oakland is hot and the place to be in the Bay Area, take a walk in Uptown Oakland (on Telegraph Ave.) any given Friday Night and see for yourself.

I can’t celebrate the freshness and dynamic energy I have encountered out in Oakland nights without making a second observation lamenting the underside of the first. And that that this shot also signals another kind of last call for Oakland. For many who grew up in Oakland and the East Bay in general know that it’s been the home for communities of color who could not  afford to live in San Francisco.  Oakland’s recent renaissance has pushed large segments of communities of color out the last four years. Things are at a critical point if you appreciate property maps that illustrate neighborhood foreclosure rates.

If you happen upon this place before the buffers and homogenous modern design floods out the fun, dynamic, colorful vibe Oakland nights have to offer, look around and ask yourself whose missing as we further into the last days of Oakland as we know it.

–JMG

HTC One M8 (cell phone camera, f. 2.0/ 1/30 / ISO 125)

Lions’ Mount and Dismount

 

Lion'sMount&Dismount(Sequence)

Lions’ Mount and Dismount (Sequence), Oakland CA, Spring 2014

The sequence depicts precarious moments in a Chinese New Year’s Lon’s Dance practice at the Oakland Museum of California. Feet suspended in the air are the frames’ focus. These youngsters acrobatics are amazing. They reflect their teachers (in the 1st and 2nd frame) discipline and attention to detail. These shots were initially published on Flickr as singles but I always knew they should be presented in sequence.

— JMG

’47 Oldie

47 Oldie (Lowriders Series), Niles CA, Spring 2015.

’47 Oldie (Lowriders Series), Niles CA, Spring 2015.

Dusk makes color and chrome render wonderfully on the grey scale.  This plymouth’s owner was glad to pose with his 1947 Oldie as he made a flaming tail pipe exit.  My goal is to catch that on camera next time. The pride these cars brings to their owners speaks to the hard work they put into a machine that becomes an extension of themselves and sometimes even capturing the identity of complete familias. Given the craftsmanship and design involved in building a lowrider its understandable how some folks may see cars as extensions of their bodies.    
— JMG

Zeta’s Lupe

Zeta's Lupe, Oakland, CA, Fall 2014

Zeta’s Lupe, Oakland, CA, Fall 2014

 

Unique threads out on Oakland nights. I noticed this young woman and could not get my eyes off her unique sense of style. I had to work up the courage to see if she would humor me when I asked if I could shoot some of her tattoos and unique top. She told me the top was hand made by her grandmother and was handed down to her recently. She was more than happy to let me shoot her with my HTC One (M8).

I wish I would have had my Nikon, but this worked good enough as I could not let the opportunity go by without a shot. Since she was happy to pose, I regret not asking her to give me a profile of her face with this pose.

Alas, on the pursuit of the aura on the street and dive bars of San Francisco Bay area.

Showers of Light Over Angel Island

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Showers of Light Over Angel Island (f.64 Series), Emeryville, CA, Spring 2015.

I’m always always lamenting the fact that the Bay Area doesn’t get nearly the kind of dramatic cloud formations as in higher altitudes. But come and think of it there ARE great cloud formations around the bay but you have to know where to find them. What I call the mouth of the Bay is ideal. Especially in the summer, every evening clouds roll in across the Bay eventually meeting into the Berkeley Hills.

A Sunday walk at the Emeryville Marina was rewarded with this formation giving off dramatic light over Angel Island. It would have been great to shoot on Black and White film given how much one might be able to get out of the cloud formation in the dark room. I’m adding to my digital editing skills every day. I got enough out of the clouds her to want to share it.