A friend of mine in my Oakland studio a few years ago. I have this obsession with the weird shapes and textures of packaging materials and items, and I typically get my “models” (I never actually use models, just friends and acquaintances) to take something up from my collection and play with it while I take warmup photos. This time I decided to make them the whole point of a few images, and encouraged my friend to use it like a mask, with a surface texture and angularity that contrasted really nicely with her body and skin. I like the result… And yes, there are more mask photos, hence the pretentious sounding “Mask 1” — I just couldn’t think of a suitable name.
The Hygenic (sic) Dog Food Co. factory, West Berkeley (“Health Food For Dogs”, as it (still) says on the side of the building). I took this photo with an old Pentax 67 medium format film camera more than two decades ago; the building’s still there now, looking much the same, but surrounded by creeping gentrification. I always wanted to buy the building and turn it into a cafe and bookshop (with a studio upstairs), but I never had the money back when Emeryville and West Berkeley were cheap, and now I don’t have a hope in hell of owning anything in either place.
You see the strangest things in America when you’re just driving through — or at least they’re strange if you’re some sort of Anglo-Australian like me, anyway. I took this one last year on my way up US 395 from Barstow, California, to Bishop, California (two poles of my Californian desert experience). Guns are one of those subjects foreigners (even a foreigner like me who is necessarily gun-savvy as a result of working on rural properties in an earlier life) learn never to bring up or discuss in America; the differences between sensibilities on guns is just too great in most cases. But they’re such a part of life here I barely blanch any more when I see something like this.
I live in the Jingletown district of Oakland, California. Nowadays it’s basically a fairly mixed neighborhood with a bunch of artists and galleries along with the inevitable techies and others. But when I moved in all those years ago, it was still semi-industrial (hell, it still is on my side of the street), and very few people actually lived here. I started taking photos of the place immediately, since it was visually interesting — lots of tin sheds, real workshops, small-scale industrial companies, etc. Some of these are still around, but a lot of the older places have either been torn down and completely replaced, or like this place on Glascock Street, renovated in a way that seems to say “high-priced Architect”. It’s pretty typical of some of the changes around here, and in this case at least preserves some of the more interesting bits of the facade, and I kinda like the effect. But it’s also symptomatic of the fact that many of us who’ve lived here for a long time can’t afford to live here any more. But that’s Progress, right? We always get rid of the people who pioneer a place like this and make it attractive….
What amazed me most when I first drove into the Californian deserts some twenty years ago was the junk. I don’t mean the dilapidated houses or buildings, or the ruins — you expect that in a tough environment. I mean the sort of junk people must have deliberately gone out of their way to dump there: television sets, fridges, sofas, mattresses, beds, cars — all dumped or accumulating in the middle of nowhere. You actually have to make a real effort to throw a dead television into, say, the Stoddard Wells ruins — it’s miles down a dirt road from the nearest real settlement, and you don’t just find yourself there in the pickup with an old TV in the back, do you? Ditto for places like Sheep Hole Pass— do people really wake up one morning and think “I’ve just got to throw that old toilet bowl and spare mattress out at Sheep Hole Pass today! Let’s load up the truck!”? And all those dead cars…. Ditto for places like Sidewinder Road near Barstow. Sidewinder Road is where I took my first Californian desert photos. After driving out along Highway 58 from Bakersfield, up and over the Tehachapis and through the town of […]
Back in the mid-1990’s I wrote this on the old Pandemonia site about the original old Emeryville Warehouse Co. building as shown above in a photo I took sometime 1990 or the early 1990’s: One of the original artist’s warehouses in E’ville. Once full of musicians, sculptors, potters, artists, and sundry others who rented space here for studios, rehearsal space, etc., the Warehouse is in danger of being renovated and turned into low-cost housing (it could have been worse, it could have been turned into some god-awful yupperie with boutique coffee and bagels, etc….). It’s a better location for workspace — right next to the railway and Sherwin Williams’ 24 hour truck depot — but that never stopped E’ville…. I once drove past here about 6am one Sunday to take photos and there was already a lone drummer thrashing away with the windows open. It was the sort of place you could see dueling robots in the parking lot or buy custom pottery upstairs. I got it wrong, more or less — it was turned into a place (“yupperie” sounds so eighties or nineties) with boutique coffee and bagels, etc. — but the word on the street back then (and I knew several people who […]
Why I’m Not a Real Photographer Back in the early 1990’s I lived in Berkeley, right near St Joseph The Worker, a magnificent Catholic church down on Addison (you can see its spires from the university). I remember one day hearing live Mariachi music floating in through my windows. I wandered out and discovered it was coming from St Joseph’s, so I walked the block or so to the church and saw this wonderful Mexican wedding celebration in progress on the steps of the church. Beautiful people, beautiful colours, beautiful sounds, beautiful clothes, continuous movement, the drama of St Joey’s in the background, a friendly, inviting atmosphere … everything. I kept thinking I should rush back and get my camera — such a photogenic event, such a photo opportunity — but I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to do it — I just wanted to hang around and experience it all, directly; I didn’t want to spend the time looking at things as potential photos, I didn’t want to spend the time experiencing it all through a viewfinder. So I just stayed there and watched, and later joined in. A few hours later I mildly regretted not getting any photos, but in the […]
Given my mild rant about Instagram I thought I’d post this Instagram I took last year of fog on San Francisco’s The Embarcadero as an example of what I like about Instagram. And that’s all I’ll say about it for now.
I’m never too sure what to make of the sort of anti-Instagram articles like the Grauniad’s somewhat old “Instagram is debasing real photography” that did the rounds last year. I’m even more surprised when people assume that I’d be the sort of person who’d be upset about or at least condescending towards Instagram. For the record, I love Instagram (I’m @jingletown on Instagram; you can see some of my, um, better-loved shots at one of my Tumblrs: “Totally Restrained“; sometime soon there’ll probably be a gallery of them here as well. Nothing special, but that’s the point, no? Let’s state the obvious: Instagram’s just another tool, just another way to capture, edit, share, and present images. It’s no more likely to herald the end of serious photography — or the image armageddon feared by so many cranks out there — than the 35mm camera caused either of those things decades ago. And who cares whether the artless use of filters is, well, artless? You don’t have to use them or look at photos that use them. It’s like Twitter — just because it may not be your cup of tea, it doesn’t make it worthless to others, or signal the end of […]
One day they’ll have the guts to call this what it was — a concentration camp (Manzanar “relocation center”). When I first drove past here more than twenty years ago, there really wasn’t anything marking the place — maybe just a plaque a little down US 395 from the old county maintenance shed, and no one I asked was entirely sure where it was (there were no signs on the highway). No one really ever mentioned it; the idea of it being a concentration camp was deeply controversial. Nowadays it’s being slowly recreated (there’s a new old guard tower as well as the sentry and guard stations), and it’s at least a little on the locals’ minds, if only as a potential tourist attraction, and the term “concentration camp” gets used a little more freely. And it’s got its own rather nice National Parks page for the curious. The thing that’s always struck me, though, is just how physically beautiful the location is: the High Sierra to the west, the Inyos to the east, the desert floor… hell to live in, though, especially in forced camps. I try to visit the place every year.