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ERIN IN THE BAY

A place to share my photography, writing, and thoughts as a Bay Area transplant. Stop in whenever you'd like.

Posts tagged oakland project:

This week I’ve been a little stopped up with writing about trains. I wrote a 10-page paper about the Great Transportation Conspiracy, using it to highlight how awful public transit is in the Bay Area (and why it is that way). (For the general gist of the conspiracy, go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_streetcar_conspiracy.) PLEASE NOTE that the word “conspiracy” here does not connote conspiracy theory, but that it was a conspiracy act by GM and other car-related companies to invest in internal combustion engine vehicles and basically convert transit to using these vehicles instead of streetcars, to create a monopoly for themselves.
I have a lot of images and a lot of resources, and I’ve been reading a ton about the streetcars and Key System and BART history in the Bay. Really, I should feel like I’m in the perfect place to start writing. I just for some reason don’t feel like I have enough time or can’t just lie around and let it come out of me for a few hours. It’s stupid and I want to come back to it. Sometimes it feels so big that I can’t see around it, or a way through it.
I also had an inspiring bike ride through West Oakland on Halloween to get to a class meeting. I realized I haven’t really spent any time in true West Oakland, the tip of it near the ports. It’s truly a different place than the “West Oakland” I used to live in at 32nd and West Street. It felt Southern for some reason, or what I’d picture the South to look like. The ride down was on Mandela Parkway, a very industrial area, and it smelled like trash. I crossed several train tracks, probably freight tracks, as lots of freight trains drop off goods at the Port, yes, the Port that thousands of people shut down on Wednesday. (Since I was writing my paper all day I went down a bit later, hanging out in the plaza and seeing the camps a few hours before they were raided for the second time by the police).
Even though I didn’t necessarily participate in the general strike perse, I feel as though I am participating in my own way, through the act of researching and writing a thesis on how, basically, the removal of a decent transportation system fucked us all over. We’ve become so dependent on car travel that we’re at the mercy of gas and car companies, as we all know, but it’s one thing to “know” it and to find out how it really happened, through newspaper articles, through looking at the evidence of the streetcars around the city. 
My ten-page paper argues that although it was far from perfect, there has been no good equivalent replacement to the Key System’s transbay and street-level service.

This week I’ve been a little stopped up with writing about trains. I wrote a 10-page paper about the Great Transportation Conspiracy, using it to highlight how awful public transit is in the Bay Area (and why it is that way). (For the general gist of the conspiracy, go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_streetcar_conspiracy.) PLEASE NOTE that the word “conspiracy” here does not connote conspiracy theory, but that it was a conspiracy act by GM and other car-related companies to invest in internal combustion engine vehicles and basically convert transit to using these vehicles instead of streetcars, to create a monopoly for themselves.

I have a lot of images and a lot of resources, and I’ve been reading a ton about the streetcars and Key System and BART history in the Bay. Really, I should feel like I’m in the perfect place to start writing. I just for some reason don’t feel like I have enough time or can’t just lie around and let it come out of me for a few hours. It’s stupid and I want to come back to it. Sometimes it feels so big that I can’t see around it, or a way through it.

I also had an inspiring bike ride through West Oakland on Halloween to get to a class meeting. I realized I haven’t really spent any time in true West Oakland, the tip of it near the ports. It’s truly a different place than the “West Oakland” I used to live in at 32nd and West Street. It felt Southern for some reason, or what I’d picture the South to look like. The ride down was on Mandela Parkway, a very industrial area, and it smelled like trash. I crossed several train tracks, probably freight tracks, as lots of freight trains drop off goods at the Port, yes, the Port that thousands of people shut down on Wednesday. (Since I was writing my paper all day I went down a bit later, hanging out in the plaza and seeing the camps a few hours before they were raided for the second time by the police).

Even though I didn’t necessarily participate in the general strike perse, I feel as though I am participating in my own way, through the act of researching and writing a thesis on how, basically, the removal of a decent transportation system fucked us all over. We’ve become so dependent on car travel that we’re at the mercy of gas and car companies, as we all know, but it’s one thing to “know” it and to find out how it really happened, through newspaper articles, through looking at the evidence of the streetcars around the city. 

My ten-page paper argues that although it was far from perfect, there has been no good equivalent replacement to the Key System’s transbay and street-level service.

“One woman who lives at Piedmont Gardens Retirement Center spoke so often about her experience riding the Key System that her fellow residents chipped in and raised money for her image to be put on the mural.”
(from a Montclarion column called LOOKING BACK by Erika Mailman)
This image is from a mural on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland done by Rocky Baird, local artist. It is of a streetcar in Oakland, the kind that ran in the first half of the 20th century.

“One woman who lives at Piedmont Gardens Retirement Center spoke so often about her experience riding the Key System that her fellow residents chipped in and raised money for her image to be put on the mural.”

(from a Montclarion column called LOOKING BACK by Erika Mailman)

This image is from a mural on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland done by Rocky Baird, local artist. It is of a streetcar in Oakland, the kind that ran in the first half of the 20th century.

The ceiling of a tunnel that used to have trains running through it. The year 1910 is in stone above it. This is what he told me about.

The ceiling of a tunnel that used to have trains running through it. The year 1910 is in stone above it. This is what he told me about.

I realized two things:

I haven’t found the question of my project yet. What is the question I am looking for the answer to. Instead, I’m just finding information that could be building up to bits of answers.

I need to find or create a photographic process that will create something new; a process that will stretch the limit of our notion of the photograph.

It seems like my thesis project on Oakland is beginning to narrow itself down, which is a very good thing. For the last two weeks I’ve been really scared that I wouldn’t be able to find a focus of my project.

I went jogging around Lake (it’s actually a lagoon) Merritt with a friend and I described to her my project. She listened, truly listened, and said: this is what I’m hearing:… It helped so much to have her tell me what she thinks about where my work is going, and the links between that and where it’s been. She was right! My work really deals with place, and asking the question over and over: where am I? Who am I in this place? It sounds obvious and maybe everyone is asking this question all the time, but I suppose I am still young and feel allowed to consistently ask it. I am understanding myself by bouncing myself off the world. And the world is changing me as I attempt to change it.

At the Oakland Public Library, in the upstairs history room, I spent a couple of hours reading about the Key System that used to run all over Oakland. I thought, what if I picked one streetcar line and followed its current-day road, with my camera, with my poetry, with my experience? A professor suggested that I use my own street: the line that used to run up Shattuck Ave to Berkeley. It was a prominent line, getting students and faculty up to the university. 

Since I’ve moved to my new apartment I’ve considered Shattuck as the back of something—it feels like it’s the back road up to Berkeley, and in some ways it could be one of the main roads, and perhaps it is, but it still feels to me like it isn’t the main drag. Maybe because I have higher more urban expectations of it from living in Brooklyn, or maybe because it feels like it should have more people on it. I’m not sure. But this is worth thinking about and researching, too.

Onward.

I shot with the school’s point and shoot again, and was pretty frustrated by its limitations. I can’t seem to get the kind of depth of field I want. I can’t look through the viewfinder. I can’t get the right color.
Yesterday I showed my images to a faculty member that’s going to help me with this project this semester. She gave me a lot of hard criticisms, the kind I need for this project. Though they’re what I need, they’re still hard to take and now I feel as if I need to sit down and really think about the kind of project I want to embark on. The one I had in mind wasn’t quite focused enough and was “problematic” in its cliche depiction of urban decay. I need to make a list of my interests. I need to make a list of things that pulls me and my heart all the while trying to understand this place, Oakland. 
In any case, here are some images I took yesterday. 

I shot with the school’s point and shoot again, and was pretty frustrated by its limitations. I can’t seem to get the kind of depth of field I want. I can’t look through the viewfinder. I can’t get the right color.

Yesterday I showed my images to a faculty member that’s going to help me with this project this semester. She gave me a lot of hard criticisms, the kind I need for this project. Though they’re what I need, they’re still hard to take and now I feel as if I need to sit down and really think about the kind of project I want to embark on. The one I had in mind wasn’t quite focused enough and was “problematic” in its cliche depiction of urban decay. I need to make a list of my interests. I need to make a list of things that pulls me and my heart all the while trying to understand this place, Oakland. 

In any case, here are some images I took yesterday.