Sunday, March 5, 2017

Pedo Milo in Berkeley

Pedo Milo in Berkeley

So, apparently I forgot to write this up. Silly me. Anyway back on February 2nd, the UC Berkeley college Republicans invited internet troll Milo Yiannopoulos to come and speak. The event itself was very quickly sold out, but that didn't mean that we couldn't attend because what would be more fun to troll the troll here after all? Isn't that what free speech is really all about? So, around 6pm during my lunch hour I headed over to Spraul Plaza to document the goings on since that was about the time they were suppose to start letting folks into MLK for the event. Protests had started roughly speaking about 2 hours earlier. I had come down Bancroft Way and as I turned into Spraul Plaza I caught sight of a few things. First, alot of protesters as a whole. A lot of barricades around MLK but not a lot of UC cops as a whole, but oddly enough no one in line to get into MLK. And lastly I walked onto Spraul Plaza with about a dozen folks who were all dressed up in jeans and black hoodies. Hmmm

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The above photo was one of the first I snapped and was probably the rear face of Protest at UC Berkeley that night, The overwhelming number of protesters had began to show up between 4 to 6 pm. This is the face of real protest for UC Berkeley. And up to this time, no violence what so ever had occurred, but come 6pm things began to change. Remember how I said I walked onto Spraul Plaza with a bunch of folks with black hoodies? well that was another face or group that came to protest, but not like any other.

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That was because the night was about to hijacked by local group of semi-anarchists who wanted to shut down the event by all means necessary. The photo above was taken before any hostilities began. The group persay is Black Bloc and at least locally is made up young white kids. I'd hard pressed to say that any of them were over 25 years old from what I could tell, but then again I didn't actually meet every single one of them either. They wore dark generally non discript clothing and covered their faces. Mainly to keep from being identified, but also protect one self from pepper spray and some of the effects of tear gas. By about 6:15 they numbered about 50-75 in a crowd of maybe 300+ protesters. They quickly took police barricades and began to rattle the cage whole as a group commanding center stage in calling out Milo to shut down the event. It was to say, well orchestrated political theater.

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While I hadn't really tried to do it, I found myself right behind the main group as they began to pull aside the police barriers. I got in a few good shots, close up of the mayhem to say the least, but also found myself being shoved and at one point one of the folks even threw a half hearted punch to get me stop photographing.

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I quickly retreated and circled around the mayhem and started to document as singular acts of what was a riot. First, Black Bloc had brought along some fire works, mainly roman candles that used to get the UC cops to retreat into MLK. They also showered a few protesters, so occasionally the UC cops would have to come back out and pull folks in who had been injured. The UC cops themselve were in riot gear and pretty much immune to the negative effects of the roman candles. Once the UC cops were in doors, individual Black Bloc folks would charge building, first throwing bricks and other implements they had brought along in order to break down the large plexiglass windows. This went on for about 5 minutes while a few UC cops took to the 2nd floor balcony and began rain pepper spray down on those of us below. Ya, I was hit by little bit of peppersray and I have to say that effects at range were pretty weak. I don't think the UC cop was trying to hit me though as it happened a guy with a flare was running by and threw it at the building. But a certain point the more robust members of Black Bloc figured out that you could easily pick up discarded police barricades and use them as battering rams against the windows on the ground floor of MLK. So that was the next stage of this political theater.

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After Black Bloc broke enough windows and breached the building, oddly enough they never really entered. Mayhem was in order, but really having a tussle with UC cops didn't seem to be part of this show. Black Bloc then moved to knock over shit as they could, which wasn't a lot and mainly generator with 4 large lights on it that had been illuminating Spraul Plaza. Afterwards the UC cops came out on the 2nd floor balcony in force (maybe dozen of so) and informed the crowd that the event had been cancelled and they gave warning for everyone to leave. This of course only emboldened the crowd.

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What I mean by emboldening here was that generator had pushed over beginning to leak gasoline all over the place and at some point some one thought it would make a nice bonfire. It actually took 5 minutes or so for the fire to catch all the spilled in that time the large crowd of paparazzi was very active on the event. Oy Vay. The next half hour was more political theater, as folks danced and taunted the UC cops all around the funereal pyre that was once a generated burned long and bright and also torched the tree next it. Oy Vay. Come 7pm, I was done and headed back to work.

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Sunday, February 5, 2017

Magnum Worshop Part II

So, as a follow up to my early blogpost I somehow got into Magnum Photography workshop in SF this last weekend. The workshop was mainly a day of lectures with Q&A from few professionals of various types, a day of portfolio reviews and no photo taking. Afterward we had drinks at a local bar. Being the old man I am, I had a drink mainly talked with everyone I could find with an accent. I can always listen to someone with an accent for hours over anyone who sounds like me. 8-) A few folks showed off equipment on both day one and two. While I generally like camera equipment speak, I really tried to avoid it for the weekend as I really wanted to focus (pun intended) on review. I did bring the m7 along, but opted to take on single photo Sunday morning on the walk between BART and event venue.

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Day 2 was photo reviews with two different groups, in both cases I was later half of the reviews so it was great to see other folks work and hear their reviews first. So first, my work was definitely in the lower third of all the material I had seen. No one needed to tell me that. But one of the main reasons for me taking this class wasn't to compare my work directly with anyone else's, but was learn and push my own work. So, in a nutshell I learned the following: I'm a good technician, but I lack focus and emotion in my work. Now I kind of knew that, but having folks bring it forth and central was something I needed to hear. But I did get some idea's based on my own review and others on where I can work. So I've been devising three to four projects to get me moving forward. Here they are in a nutshell

Scooter Rally photography: So most people I know already know that I've documented various scooter rallies on the west coast for close to 20 years. Most of these read on surface as event photography, but if you look across all of them you really see my develop as photographer, but in their current form they do lack direction, story and focus. I did show 3 photos form the last year that showed some of my work here as such I am no taking some time to hone in story within them. What I mean by this is that I'll be taking segments of this archive and finding stories within them and then developing (or finishing) storys based on these. The first of these is on a friend of mine up in Portland who I have documented his work as mechanic for the last decade or so. I want to focus in on his carrier, his relationship to Portland and where he's going. I have much of the backstory, but I'll need to do a proper interview and then figure out what photos I have that cover his story and what I'll need to finish the story.

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The next project of sorts is based on some exploring I did last summer at Donner pass. I'm still in early stages of what really explore, but I want see about documenting the graffiti art that is strewn up that way. Right now I need a clear weekend to go and revisit the place and see about contacting some of the graffiti artists too.

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Now the third project is really the big one and I guess I should do some explaining here. The project kind of comes from 3 idea's I heard during my reviews. So, one of the things that's been really missing in my work has been emotion. For the last few years I've really felt disconnected from life. I'm not really emotionally engaged much these days and in turn it shows in my work. For these same few years while I've been exploring I've been mostly shooting landscapes of various sorts and kind of avoiding people. The second part of the idea came when one of the reviews complained (in general) about how the homeless were treated in San Fransisco. She was really taken back about people here culturally seem to ignore the homeless and treat them like they do not exists. I have to say, I do this but my experience is a of a mixed bag here too. So I do this, I ignore on the surface, but I do feel for the folks I come into contact with who are on the streets. But it is defensive mechanism none the less. Anyway, this got me thinking about my work, my home, how I've been feeling and thinking about how to combine them into a longer range project. My idea in nut shell I have titled "Disconnected in Berkeley." I've hit my immidate archives of work and found several images that capture and help tell this tail and am adding more every week. This one actually excites me and I hope this project can really grow, not just photographically but also emotionally. So, more to come here

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I guess, more to come. Thanks

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Oakland Women's March - January 21st, 2017

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I think by now, we are all ready aware of who, what, why and when of the coming together of the various Women's march's across the US back on January 21st, 2017. I for one wanted to go and take part in what ways I can. The want and need for me then was to support family (I was raised in a household of 100% women after all), friends and colleges who will more then likely see larger brunt of problems and hell then I will as a middle aged middle class white male. I most wanted to see and experience the emotions around this event, I also wanted to use what skills I had as a photographer to catch and share around me. So early Saturday morning I looked outside at the growing clouds above me, packed my camera, some water and rain jacket and headed to North Berkeley BART station to travel to Oakland and experience the day. Upon arriving I was marveled at the growing size of the multiple lines to get into the BART station. This was my first site of how much larger this event was going to be then I imagined. I quickly figured out which of the two lines was tickets and turn style and headed to the back to wait my turn to get into the BART station. I wasn't surprised that most of those in line were white middle class families and predominately female. In my suburban hood, that is pretty much the demographic around me. Ages varied, but everyone was excited, even the middle aged middle class single male among them. In retrospect I should have already had camera out to document this early stage of the day, but instead bided my time and worried that the wait to get in would make me (and others) late to the ball.

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Once I was past the turnstiles it was quick and easy trip down underground to the train. BART kind of dropped the ball, this was a weekend sized train (6 cars instead of 10) and it most of the cars were already full. I had to search for an open spot near the end of the train to fit in. Once crammed in, we were on our way. As the train started in Richmond, the very predominantly white middle classed group of us was in fact joining smaller group of folks who lived upstream of us and we were not quite as white middle classed as we had been upstairs. We stopped briefly in Berkeley (downtown) and Ashley (south Berkeley) for moment, but our train could take no more on-board at either stop leaving hundreds with a dreaded faces to wait for another train that most likely would also be filled. At MacArther station (north Oakland) a few departed to catch a train to SF and even more then surged onto our train then had left leaving us all far closer then our white middle class was used too. But it was OK, we needed this. At 12th station we stopped and were told of delays getting to Lake Merrit station, so many of us abandoned BART and started a hike across downtown Oakland so we would meet and take part in the day.

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The walk itself was it's own mini march, we set about in groups and marched over. When hit Oakland Museum, were hit by a wall of people covering the entire breadth of the street and reaching off toward our start destination 3 more black away. This was far bigger then I ever thought it would be.

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I tried to squeeze in and by, but after a block it was apparent that this was close I was going to get start of the march, on the good side, the march itself once started would come this way and we'd be able to join in. As we still had another 30 minutes or so till the start, I un-slung my camera's and started to roam and see what I could find. At this point I was very cautions of what I shot. The idea of a white middle aged single middle class guy photographing all those women was in the back of my mind and I most certainly wanted to cover this responsibly. As a start, I focused in on the thousands of signs around me, let's start on those. Message over messenger. Yes, that would good start for me.

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After 20-30 minutes though, I could scan viewfinder on the back of the camera and see that while I was catching message, I wasn't catching or documenting the face and emotion around me. So I slowly started to step back and photograph a slightly wider perspective and try and document the human side of the events unfolding around me. After a few minutes though, the street began to be cleared as head of the march was making it's way north east in our direction.

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We waited in the bicycle lane for the head of the march to come by, banner and all, displaying the simply sentiment of the day. Our women's march had stared and and didn't really pass us by. As many of those around me began to filter into the march, i wanted for a few hundred folks to go by and I too slipped into the middle of march and stopped being a bi-standard and take part with those around me.

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Photographing the march, from within the march as moved along proved to harder then one might think. If for instance I stopped to take a photo, 20-30 right behind me would also have to stop, and as such I couldn't really stop and get much documented this way. So I changed tactics and moved to the edges of the march and began to capture the people who were lining march, spectators of sort, but everyone of them participant too.

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As We rounded away from Lake Merrit, I found myself having made my way to nearly the head of the march. From time to time, I could jump out of the march and photograph back in, but it was also a chance see more of the march then I could from within.

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It wasn't that long, but the last 3rd of march was more cramped, mainly due tothe towering buildings around us, but after 20 more minutes it was apparent that this part of the march was reaching the end and would soon turn into Frank Ogawa plaza for the next stage of the protect. AS such I jumped out of the march and found my way into the plaza to catch the end, or the new beginning.

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So, what to do next. The Ogawa plaza was fairly muddy and really only had one way in for the marchers who came in behind me, so it was also slow to fill. I took stalk of what I photographed already and began a new plan on what to photograph next. As I noted early, my early take on the march had been that it was filled with large body of the white middle class, but after all this time and moving around and see more then just the few thousand marchers, one could easily see that this protest had a lot more to offer then my original take on it all. First among those white middle class, were quite a number of gay, queer and transgender. I was reminded by boss right after the election that while she and her wife felt safe here in the Bay area, she and her family wouldn't be visiting any of the red states for quite some time. It was also apparent that other groups had filtered in and to be honest, they were far more at risk then I would ever be, so from here I tried to photograph and document this part of the protect by finding what I would call "couples". It would better call them "Two's" as I wanted to find and photograph pairs of people that were not my initial finding for the day. This proved easy for about 30 minutes, but once the square began to fill up, my ability to find and photograph became such that stuck in the back not able to really see or partake in the staged presence ahead of me.

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About this time I had been texting off and on with a few friends in attendance, trying to find out where any of them were. I had heard back from one that she and her sister had made their way to Ogawa plaza and found it far too crowded, so they began traveling backwards back down the parade of marchers in hopes of experiencing more and finding out just how big the protest was. I for one, followed suit and headed back Oakland and found that up until now, I had only seen a fraction of the protect.

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Moving back down and against the sea of protesters first proved to difficult, but I found if I kept to small traffic island, I could move, stop and photograph without obstructing the march itself.

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After nearly another hour, the marchers were no where near done. But being the old man I am, I was. I made my way back up to 12th street and found my way back onto a BART train back to Berkeley. But oh what a day as I still now had around 400 digital photos to start processing and 2 rolls of B&W film to develop, scan, grade and process. Oh what a day

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More photographs from Oakland Women's March can be foundhere Enjoy