May 06, 2008
  Castro Street

(Oakland, 2008; click on image for larger version. Image copyright Hamish Reid).

For several years I commuted into San Francisco from my studio and home in East Oakland on BART; as you went over West Oakland on the elevated BART way, you could see this ramshackle old apartment building just off to the left at street level in a mostly commercial and industrial neighbourhood. Over the years it got progressively more decrepit until it looked like it must have been condemned; but these things are hard to tell from BART. I kept mentally making a note to go and photograph the place, and every now and then I'd actually ride or drive past it on my way through West Oakland, but the sun was always in the wrong place or the light was bad or (as always seems to happen in West Oakland) there'd be a huge container truck or something similar parked idling right in front of it.

Finally I went out on my bike one Sunday morning and managed to get it (more-or-less) right. I think the resulting image does a reasonable job of conveying the isolation of the building, the lack of people on the street (this isn't the sort of neighbourhood where most people take casual strolls), the bizarre angles and textures on the walls and roof; the dereliction. It's definitely one of my fave old Oakland buildings, and amazingly enough it's still there, but it won't last. It's officially condemned, it's boarded up, and it's got a furtive transient population of rats and crackheads that you sort of can't miss if you look in the right places at the right time. The neighbourhood's rough enough that it may still be there in a decade, but maybe not: the lifestyle lofters and richer artists are taking over large swathes of this place as they have a bit further down the Estuary in what's still laughably called the warehouse district. We shall see….

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Hamish Reid is a photographer, designer, and software engineer living and working in the Jingletown district of Oakland, California. This is his full profile.

You can get hold of Hamish at xyzphotolalia at ylayalixyz dot com without the xyx's.

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