I’ve commuted to San Francisco for years now on BART. Back in the mid-2000’s, 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 wasn’t the sort of neighbourhood where most people take casual strolls), the bizarre angles and textures on the walls and roof; the dereliction. It was definitely one of my fave old Oakland buildings — until it got renovated about a year after I took this shot. That renovation will definitely be one of my Now and Then series postings sometime soon, but in the meantime, the image brings back what I most remember about the place: the way it was always boarded up (in different places over time), with a furtive transient population of rats and crackheads that you sort of couldn’t miss if you looked in the right places at the right time.