Stephen Texeira’s Oakland Neighborhoods Project
He met me at my favorite writing and interviewing spot, Awaken Café. However, I hadn’t exactly confirmed with him yet. The day was a bit of a clusterfuck for me, as I meandered around the bike trails of walnut creek that morning, after a night of margaritas and mexican food with friends and a breakfast of pie (I’m on Spring Break- quit judging!) so I showed up at two minutes to two and emailed him: I’m here. He looked up and I looked up and there he was in my direct line of vision. Stephen, I asked. Gina, he asked. Then we laughed and convened.
We got to talking and Stephen told me about his background in journalism and listened to my rant about being accused of being a journalist when I said “writer” and how I have come to see the title as a compliment because journalists do important shit (not just wear too muck make up and shorter and shorter skirts on TV). He told me about the many people he has connected with through this project so far.
There are 150 neighborhoods in Oakland.
We at Wear Your Voice Magazine are pumped about the synchronicity of Stephen’s new project and our mission as he is photographing an individual from each neighborhood of oakland in order to represent their neighborhood. Since starting at WYV, I have interviewed and connected with a lot of creative and entrepreneurial women who love what they do. I don’t know if I didn’t think it existed for men, perhaps due to the pressure of male societal roles that command them to bring in money, suck it up and drive on, and not express emotions, but those subconscious beliefs were pushed aside during our meeting.
Stephen told me there is not an aspect of his work that he doesn’t love.
Stephen’s photo project encompasses two shoots a week, which will amount to a year and a half time commitment. Generally, he identifies someone, or more often then not, is recommended someone through someone else or is contacted directly by the person who is interested, and then he takes time to talk to them, to get to know them a bit. Next, he will give them a few days or a week to think about what they want to say. On the day of the shoot he has them write it out and then he does the shoot.
Stephen has always done photography but it has only been in the past three to four years that he has been doing photography full time. He likes to take a total stranger, spend time with them and find something out about them that he can show in the photos. When I asked him if there are similarities between people he photographs, he told me yes.
People want to be respected.
They want to be seen. Everyone is unsure of themselves. People want to be who they are and be honest. The lens forces people to be themselves more than other tools.
Stephen Texeira loves Oakland. He says it is the community that makes Oakland what it is.
An article begin written up in the Chronicle about Stephen was due to a community member talking about his project. One day, after the article was written, he stopped into Cafe Gabriela, a favorite of his in Oakland, where he met a woman that was in the cafe because she had seen his article in the SF Chronicle which featured images of Stephen in the café. He also told me about Penny, a huge supporter of the Oakland Community and a “tremendous example of what a good community citizen person should be.”
While Stephen strives to put as little of himself into this project as he can, he also realizes the ways in which this is impossible. Check out the article in the chronicle, hire him for a photo shoot, keep your eyes peeled for prints of
Stephen Texeira’s work in Downtown Oakland
and stay tuned for upcoming collaborations between Stephen & Wear Your Voice!
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