I’d been told to stay away from East Oakland,” says photographer Annie Atkins. “I was supposed to be taking photos of street life for a music video and I had no idea where I was going. It was just me and the director, Astrid Edwards. I asked which part of California we would be in. She said East Oakland. The first thing that happened was two people were shot dead outside our hotel.”
Infamously renowned for drug crime, gangs and prostitution, Oakland is considered one of the most dangerous districts in The United States. The crime rate escalated during the 1960s, and by the end of the 70s the per capita murder rate had risen to twice that of New York City. The images portray the real inhabitants of the impoverished district. Atkins refrains from using lights or frills and concentrates on real people, going about their daily lives. The pure rawness of the images make We Love Oakland a truly eye opening exhibition. “The more I learn about photography the more I realise it isn’t about pointing a camera at something, it’s about talking to people.” The resulting work is a collection of portraits of the children, parents, dancers, street workers, residents and homeless of one of America’s sunniest but toughest neighbourhoods.
We Love Oakland, June 14-17 at Filmbase, Temple Bar. Admission: Free.