The other weekend I went to Sunday Streets in the Bayview district. I have a soft spot for the Bayview; probably because it reminds me of my own neighborhood in Oakland. There’s a symmetry between the two – in the sagging Victorians and the underused industrial spaces, in the treeless sidewalks and the pitted streets and the patina of socio-economic neglect. There’s also a certain quiet stoicism to both neighborhoods. A feeling that the streets are patiently biding their time; waiting, disinterestedly, for their potential futures to manifest.
Or not. Underprivileged and overexploited light industrial/mixed use neighborhoods will always exist. The name may change but there will always be a “Bayveiw”.
I came away from Sunday Streets having found two random spots that spoke to me. Generally I don’t photograph people and I don’t photograph Big Important Buildings. I’m drawn instead to small details and tiny tensions and stories that trail off without…………… Both these sites fit that criteria; although in my opinion the photographs themselves fall a bit short artistically.
The first was a random Victorian on Jerrold, across from Flora Grub Gardens. Built in 1900, this building survived the 1906 Earthquake and several waves of neighborhood re/construction to become an architecturally ornate pigeon loft. But oh what a pigeon loft! I love how their tiny feet clutch at the trim with such awkward determination. I love the solitary pigeon at the peak of the moulding; set apart from the rest of the flock like a king or a pariah. And I love how immensely lonely this house is; an intact historical relic peaking out amidst empty lots, tin-sided warehouses, and tragically over-remodeled/under-preserved Victorians.
The second was at Quint and Evans, just two blocks up from the old train tracks. I’m sort of in love with this corner – as a place, as an aesthetic object, as a moment captured in historical time, as a representation of the forces at play in mixed use neighborhoods. Why? Well, there’s the conceptual interplay between the pay phone, the fire alarm call box, and the painted over phone number on the front sign (it’s 415.826.0912, pass it on). There’s also the visual melange of badly scrubbed graffiti, badly patched stucco, and the single boarded up window. But really it’s the hypersaturated, hypersexual, hyperhipster billboard for American Apparel that does it for me.
There’s something so arrogant about it’s placement; it all but verges on the pornographic (and not specifically due to it’s content). Really, this is a road frequented by scrappers, warehouse workers, and truckers headed to the produce terminal. It’s a road with few residents, little to no “civilian” traffic, and a stark lack of young women (the assumed audience for this brand). So what does this billboard accomplish? To whom does it speak? What is it’s eyeball value? Nothing. No one. None. This is the result of someone looking at spreadsheets and numbers and blindly buying media for their advertising campaign. Some people dump old sofas and gallons of paint; some people dump socioeconomically ill-fitting billboards. And the end result? Empty street dada and a hot pink, benippled fuck you to both community appropriate land use (or in this case billboard use) and targeted advertising. Brilliant! No really…