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

21st Century Stockings (Diptych)

The title I gave this shot reaches back to a series of photographs Dorothea Lange made during the Great Depression.  Depicting women wearing mended stocking, Lange thought these shots said much about the time in which they were made.  Her subject was the way the femininity responded to the shortcoming of the economy.

This shot is more about women empowerment in the 21st Century and their ability define themselves (even in eyebrow raising ways).  The value of the shot isn’t so much in the expression it caught on the frame, but rather in the way the picture allows us to reflect on how much things have changed.

If you need to be reminded or see for yourself, here is a link to one of the mended stockings shots by Lange: www.mocp.org/detail.php?t=objects&type=group&f=&a….  After that shot you might want to say about the shot above, “Those aren’t your grandma’s stockings!”

–JMG

Portrait of a Bay Area Freedom Fighter

Oakland has a long, deep tradition of activism. From the Black Panthers to the Black Block of the occupy movement to the most recent Black Lives Matters movement,

strong advocates for common humanity make Oakland home. As an observer of the city’s movements for the last decade, Pancho stands out as a figure reminiscent of Mario Salvio who doesn’t hold back to speak truth to power. He carries a flag imprinted with a globe because universal human rights is his cause.

On this day he was happy to meet Bobby Seale, who graciously granted I take a portrait of them together. I meant for this shot to have historical significance as it shows the penthouse that Huey P. Newton lived at when we was finally exonerated from attempt of murder charges in his infamous 1968 case.

Pancho reminds me of one of those prophets in Biblical time whose commitment to truth and justice defines his conviction to refuse excess, rely on the bare essentials to finds rightiousness.  I love that the camera reveals these figures to me as I realize that without it I would miss the Ghaindi’s and King’s around me.

–JMG

White Silence Is Violence

A white majority made itself heard last week in the U.S. putting its support behind a candidate that promises to keep his bigoted, White-nationalist, Islamophobic promises.

This shot (taken this summer the day after Alton Brown murder) signals irony and impossibility given the recent turn of events in the Presidential election.  Irony lies behind the predictions and poll models that were confident most Americans would make an ethical choice.  The impossibility of being trapped between White silence and the White rural vote for the next four years leaves many of us with nothing but disappointment because making America great never includes making room for folks of color.

Sorry Langston, we are still having to fight for our place on the table.

***See more of my Black Lives Matter Series in my galleries section.***

–JMG

Cheap Thrills

It’s amazing how much fun a kid can have with a hill and a bit of space to run on.

I like how the only person aware of the lens happens is kind of shy, yet friendly. We can’t tell if the mother is totally unaware or if she is also totally enjoying the cheap thrills being had just above her.

I happened to be moving around this day from an estuary clean up to a visit to an Outdoor Afro program out on Oakland’s Lake Merritt when I saw the kids taking turns making a roller coaster out of the steep ground. Covering this much ground yields little gems like this.

— JMG

OLYMPUS MIRORLESS DIGITAL, M5 (ISO 200 / f.5.6 / 1/4000)

Waiting

Some say bus stops are excellent spaces to photograph people in their urban environment. The Bay Area has ferry stops too.

Like bus stops, waiting for the next one forces riders to slow down. If you look close enough, you’ll notice that waiting can turn into a siesta sometimes. Who needs a bed when you have grassy shade to nap on?

— JMG

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA, ISO 100/ 1/640 / f. 11