Now and Then: Dogtown, Oakland

Two of my fave Oakland buildings (the New California Barber Shop and The House Of God Spiritual Temple), in what was once one of the rougher neighbourhoods (Dogtown) of a rough city (Oakland, California, a city I lived in for fifteen years until the mid 2010's).

When the buildings were still in use (a little bit before the time of the first photo, c. 2002), I always liked the colours, the window shapes, and the confusing geometry of this scene; and, of course, this is a part of town that’s got a lot of associations for me going back many years. A starving artist friend of mine had a (literally) rat-infested studio in the attic of a big old Quonset hut around the corner from here back then (just before the area sprouted a bunch of crappy lifestyle lofts and things like that), and we’d walk past these buildings on the way up to the shops on Hollis every once in a while, and if the guys sitting in front of the buildings were in the right mood (or not too out of it), they’d cadge cigarettes from (or make fun of) “mister artist”.

Not long after that first photo, the buildings were apparently slated to be torn down as part of a larger redevelopment; needless to say, that didn’t happen for many years after that. I’d go past them every week or two, and little changed for a bunch of years, then it it became a slow downhill slide to that second-last sad image, taken May 2014. And then a few years after that the buildings were torn down and nothing much replaced them for another  few years until about 2020, and then 2021 arrived and with it that last image… such a symbol of the New Dogtown, thrusting up through the Old Dogtown that's still there all around it (at least in places).

Frankly, when I did the first photo all those years ago, I thought I’d see a shiny new live-work place there within a year, which is why there’s a large gap in the images between 2002 and 2008.

The images were taken with a variety of cameras under a variety of conditions; they’re really just snapshots, but they should give you some idea of the place… I have other Dogtown shots, maybe they’ll surface here sometime as well.

The New California Barber Shop and The House of God Spiritual Temple, Dogtown, Oakland, 2002 - 2021

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