July 07, 2008
  The New California Barber Shop

The New California Barber Shop and The House Of God Spiritual Temple, Dogtown, Oakland

(Oakland, 2002. Image copyright Hamish Reid).

The New California Barber Shop and The House Of God Spiritual Temple, Dogtown, Oakland. Two of my fave Oakland buildings, in what was once one of the rougher neighbourhoods (Dogtown) of a rough city (Oakland). I've always liked the colours, the window shapes, and the confusing geometry of this scene. Plus, of course, this is a part of town that's got a lot of associations for me going back nearly two decades.

The two buildings are still there, both completely derelict now, but since Dogtown's being increasingly overrun by redevelopment, it's not clear how much longer these two will be around, at least in this form. It's the old story, no? (And one of the reasons I'll probably soon have to leave my own neighbourhood, which has also been transformed from a low-rent industrial area to, gawd help me, an arts district with a growing rash of hipster cafes, lofts, and galleries insinuated into the poorer bits). But Dogtown's different from my neighbourhood: few people were displaced when the factories around my current studio closed down or the businesses moved to the Valley or overseas; we (mostly) moved into empty buildings and dead blocks. In sad contrast, Dogtown was always a small residential oasis. It's still got a lot of the original inhabitants, increasingly semi-homeless or on the street after being evicted or expelled from homes some of them have lived in for decades, mostly just to make way for nice middle class condos and lifestyle lofts; the class-based version of ethnic cleansing, I guess ("class cleansing"?). The same as it ever was.

And it's a mistake to be nostalgic for some sort of urban authenticity or to overlook the reality of a place like this: yes, it's scenic; yes, it's picturesque; yes, the colours and shapes totter between the naive and the inspired; but yes, too, it was then, and still is, a site of extreme desperation for a few. One of the reasons it actually took me forever to get this shot — literally weeks of on-and-off prowling — is that there's a steady stream of homeless and derelict people who congregate in front of these two buildings on their way to or from the local recycling center (where they can unload their trolleys of stolen recycling for a few bucks) or to drink or drug themselves into a state of anesthesia on the street right here. Since I really don't enjoy making art of real people's misfortune, I didn't want to include suffering and personal decrepitude, no matter how it would "improve" the shot for a lot of viewers.

Plus, of course, it's incredibly stupid to just wander up and take photos of a bunch of armed kids and drugged-out guys in a place like Oakland, especially with an expensive camera (and when this was taken it was a rather rougher place than it is now). No, this wasn't a drive-by by me, but nor was it a carefully set-up thing: a starving artist friend of mine had a (literally) rat-infested studio in a big old tin shed around the corner from here back then, and we'd both walk past these buildings on the way up to the shops on Hollis every once in a while, and if the guys sitting on the front steps were in the right mood, they'd beg cigarettes from us or make fun of "mister artist". This time, though, for the first time in weeks, there wasn't anyone there, and even though the light was in the wrong place and just wrong, I got the shot. Within weeks the place changed again; I have a series of the changes over the intervening years that I'll probably publish in a year or two when the place is finally redeveloped into a coffee shop or gallery. We shall see….

Photolalia: Some images... and a few brief words about them. (Like Dancing About Architecture).

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About Me
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.
Some Previous Posts
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Mission and Third
State Surrealism
The Business End
The New California Barber Shop
East Of Oildale
Castro Street
Right Place, Right Time.
The Indecisive Moment
May 2004
June 2004
July 2004
August 2004
September 2004
October 2004
January 2005
May 2005
June 2005
July 2005
August 2005
September 2005
October 2005
November 2005
January 2006
February 2006
March 2006
June 2006
July 2006
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November 2006
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
November 2007
December 2007
January 2008
February 2008
March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
June 2008
July 2008
August 2008
October 2008
November 2008
December 2008
April 2010
Around Jingletown
Some Photoblogs I Like
(In no particular order, and rather capriciously:)

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