Birth of a Dynasty: A Camera’s Victory Lap Around Lake Merritt on Parade Day

On Thursday, June 15th the city of Oakland gathered to salute the team that won its second championship trophy in three seasons.  Looking to document the dynamic spirit of the city in a critical year of transition, I took a celebratory lap along with the team around Oakland’s Lake Merritt.

There’s much art in the spirit of a city.  I hope the selections give visitors to the site a taste of the color, joy, and breadth of diversity that Oakland breaths at this moment.  I also hope the photographs succeed in showing how the city identifies with this team and vice versa.

This championship comes with inevitable change looming for those hanging on by a string to stay in a community they know and love and those instigating the class and race shifts that are palpable.  One literally cannot ignore the way change is floating in the air.  As you will see this is not hyperbole, but written across the sky for all to see. Those who follow my blog know my ongoing project is taking up gentrification as the subject of my photography.  These selection are part of a larger project coming together this year. I’m glad to anticipate this set in honor of an exemplary team and a great city.

—JMG

 

 

 

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

Oakland by Night: A Photographic Profile of Oakland’s First Friday Art Walk

My love for low light photography and street photography draws me into the night, camera in hand, consistently.  The aim is always to brush up with Brassai and show Oakland’s nocturnal aura. Paris isn’t Oakland and Oakland isn’t Paris. The sleepy romantic secrets of Brassaï’s Paris are far from Oakland’s open air creative culture, its “on fleek” style, and its hyphee movements.

Hyphee in Motion: The Art of “Tut” & “Turf” Reflects the Vitality of Oakland Arts Cutting Edge

Oakland’s First Friday art walk continues to demonstrate that this city might be second to none when it comes to incubating and generating unique visionaries that push content and form in the arts.  This set was shot at First Friday, an event most think of as a showcase for the East Bay’s creative communities.  Turf (referring to the foot work) and Tut (referring to the arm work) take show case to another level as it’s energy is infectious and exalts the amazing beauty of the human form in movement.

Photographing the performing arts in lowlight without flash helps me record and show motion.  Shooting under these setting also limit the sharpness of the shots.  A fact I can live with in order to show in photographs the fleeting energy of innovative youth at the top of their game.

—JMG

Solace in Community: Oakland Mourns Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire Victims

On Friday, December 2nd, 36 people lost their life in a deadly fire at an artist live/work warehouse space know as the Ghost Ship in Oakland’s Fruitvale District.  A night of celebration turned tragic at the warehouse when a fire broke out trapping dozens inside. This set documents the community’s overwhelming sense of loss and their need to express it.

 

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Untitled (Oakland de luto set), Oakland CA, Winter 2016.

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Untitled (Oakland de luto set), Oakland CA, Winter 2016.

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Untitled (Oakland de luto set), Oakland CA, Winter 2016.

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Untitled (Oakland de luto set), Oakland CA, Winter 2016.

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Untitled (Oakland de luto set), Oakland CA, Winter 2016.

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Untitled (Oakland de luto set), Oakland CA, Winter 2016.

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Untitled (Oakland de luto set), Oakland CA, Winter 2016.

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Untitled (Oakland de luto set), Oakland CA, Winter 2016.

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Untitled (Oakland de luto set), Oakland CA, Winter 2016.

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Untitled (Oakland de luto set), Oakland CA, Winter 2016.

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Untitled (Oakland de luto set), Oakland CA, Winter 2016.

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Untitled (Oakland de luto set), Oakland CA, Winter 2016.

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Untitled (Oakland de luto set), Oakland CA, Winter 2016.

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Untitled (Oakland de luto set), Oakland CA, Winter 2016.

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Untitled (Oakland de luto set), Oakland CA, Winter 2016.

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Untitled (Oakland de luto set), Oakland CA, Winter 2016.

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Untitled (Oakland de luto set), Oakland CA, Winter 2016.

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Untitled (Oakland de luto set), Oakland CA, Winter 2016.

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Untitled (Oakland de luto set), Oakland CA, Winter 2016.

Untitled (Oakland de luto set), Oakland CA, Winter 2016.

Untitled (Oakland de luto set), Oakland CA, Winter 2016.

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Untitled (Oakland de luto set), Oakland CA, Winter 2016.

Untitled (Oakland de luto set), Oakland CA, Winter 2016.

Portrait of a Chinatown Pop-up Grocer

 

Oakland’s Chinatown is all about getting a bargain on fresh food. Close enough to the Port of Oakland and Oakland’s central produce market, you can’t beat the prices on fresh greens, pork, poultry, or fresh sea food (from cat fish to eel).

Lately I have been preoccupied, pondering why photography seems to gravitate to these ethnic enclaves.  One can read Chinatown photographs as a kind of internal travel photography that at some level objectifies the subjects it captures.   Weary of a enacting the colonial gaze, I battle with my desire to shoot as an outsider.

This shot illustrates the enxiety I articulate above because I wanted to make a portrait of this friendly pope up fruit seller as she seemed friendly enough but everytime I pointed that lens at her she raised her hand as if saying hello, but blocking her face on purpose.  After the fourth click I realized that was the shot: her clean, tighty fruit set up wating for the next customer to sell her hadnful of goods. I like the shot becasue it was clear it was ok for me to the shot, but it needed to be done on her terms, stripping away the power of the camera and a potential colonial gaze.

I began this series because more and more, this corner of Oakland is becoming dear to me and I fear that it is only a matter of time before the seachange that is rapidly transforming the cityscape also claims Chinatown for the sake if new luxury development.  It’s only a matter of time, thus the Chinatown Hustle series seeks to document it’s working life and people.

 

–JMG