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

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

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

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

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)