I found some writing about my new Oakland project before my mugging happened, which makes me feel sad but a bit more grounded. It also makes me realize that I knew just how possible it was that someone could steal my camera from me.
Today I walked from 39th and Telegraph down to 27th and then over to West, and back to Telegraph. I’m trying not to think too much about “what” I’m shooting (even though that’s a big question—what am I shooting? What am I aiming for? It’s not exactly a “portrait” of Oakland but it’s trying to convey Oakland in some way. I find the “richer” neighborhoods are the lower-class ones—the ones no one wants to live in.) Of course there are exceptions to this in my mind, but really I have little interest in shooting the higher-class neighborhoods. They have little to offer my camera. This is the first lesson of this project.
Today as I was walking I began thinking about my SLR camera as an object. People were reacting to its size and obvious value—maybe no one in these neighborhoods would spend $600 on a camera. They look almost curious sometimes and I wonder if they wonder if I’m photographing for something official. It most certainly put me at a distance from them. The camera separates me from them, but in some situations, maybe not.
Still sticking to the evidence of people, the evidence of behaviors, as my focus. I was photographing transition—or failure, abandonment. Boarded up or vacant lots, flowers with litter next to them, or a discarded chair or mattress on the street or in a patch of ivy.
If I photograph people, they’re far away—figures—part of the landscape rather than people with identities.
I want to shoot 4 more times, at least, and start compiling.
I hope I never stop feeling like I can say hello to people on the street. I hope I never feel afraid like I’m supposed to. Like I see others. I hope my curiosity and humility, both learned and a priori, will stay with me and carry me through this project and far beyond, through life.