THIS IS THE LONG-TERM STORY I'VE BEEN WORKING ON FOR 7 YEARS and it's growing so much I've had to divide it into sections. For my newest West Oakland work see the "NEW WORK" gallery on my homepage.
To get into any of the sections below click on one of its photos. Please don't look at them in just this reduced size.
Hillary. I happened upon Hillary sitting on a curb, getting ready to "go out." She was oiling her body, painting her toenails, and finally strapping on high heels. She explained: "I'm doing this for myself." Her children knew what she did, she said, and her "wife" was sitting across the street. (You can just see her in the distant group of woman.) I asked Hillary if she was trans and she said, "No, I'm all woman" and flashed me a glimpse of what seemed to be a vagina though not exactly in the right place. When I jumped back in surprise, she rolled her eyes, reached into her purse, and showed me a letter from Social Security. It was addressed to Hillary with her last name. I wish I had taken down her address since everything about her is mysterious. Also, I'd like to thank her for these photos. (Click thumbnails for full size.)
The corner of 8th and Campbell is a hangout in the Lower Bottoms neighborhood, next to one of the "Low Income" housing villages. The police know it well because the Yemeni immigrant who works in the corner store calls them a lot. But the Yemani woman who lives above the store says she likes living where she does because she knows the regulars. She knows she can let her children play outside because the regulars, even the crazies, the alcoholics and the drug addicts, will watch over them. And no one has every bothered her. Click thumbnails for full size and hover over photos to see captions.
Bob Rosenberg is one of a kind. He's a San Francisco-born Jewish guy, 50 now, and a long-time meth user. He's also a good mechanic who can get just about any old truck or car to run. He makes money in a million different ways but mostly in the scrap-metal and auto-recycling business. He is always surrounded by junked trucks and cars. Some calls him a Godfather to the lost souls and addicts of Oakland's Lower Bottoms, but most people come to his junkyard to try and sell him something he can recycle, or ask if he has a temporary job. He's known to be especially generous with his tools and occasionally he picks up an old van or mobile home and gives it to someone to sleep in. He explodes in anger occasionally, but people put up with it because they need his help, or think he is smart, or know that he is honest and so will give them good advice. I've never seen him without a girlfriend. Click thumbnails for full size.
On the street in the Lower Bottoms/Peralta neighborhood. There is a lot of street life in West Oakland's residential areas, which is great for a photographer. Click thumbnails for full size.
Alliance Metals is (was) an old recycling center on the edge of West Oakland that was closed by the city August 27th, 2016. It closed because of neighborhood protests and a large development in the works. During the day, poor folk would drive up to Alliance in loaded cars and trucks, and desperately poor folk would walk in pushing shopping carts. Inside, everyone worked hard to sort their treasure and leave with a little cash. Some of the cash was probably spent on liquor and drugs but most of it supplemented poverty-level incomes. The film "Dogtown Redeemption" made the case for keeping the center open as a cottage industry serving the homeless and the working poor, but the city council sided with the neighbors. (The photos of religious "healers" were taken outside of Alliance and the photos in color are of Alliance"s closing.) Click thumbnails for full size.
RIP: Rest in Peace. There are a lot of murders in West Oakland, most of it black men killing other black men -- for "nothing" as the old-timers say. A woman. An insult. Turf. Mistakes. This sequence was taken at a “Repast" (the party after a funeral) for Donald, a 21-year-old man who wasn't in a gang and who's grandmother called him "a Mama's boy" meaning he liked to cook, spend time with his kids, and visit his other ailing grandmother. He had three young sons, two Baby Mamas who worked and he never had a job. But somehow, in the Lower Bottoms, that's OK. Donald was shot and killed while sitting, almost asleep, in the backseat of a van whose driver was the actual target. Most of these murders in West Oakland don't make the news, but the lives lost are always deeply mourned. Click thumbnails for full size.