A twenty-five-year resident of Oakland, Malcolm Ryder recomposes its landscape and, in that way, reimagines how to experience it.
His method exploits numerous forms of photo imagery associated with ways we “normally” decide to see things and, in doing so, often therefore fail to see some things at all.
In his soft-touch but subversive perspectif, buildings can unexpectedly become models; porches and yards, theater sets. Street corners become portraits; businesses become postcards; and sidewalks, impromptu art galleries. All manner of things become sculptures, or drawings. His treatment of subjects repeatedly seems to offer careful documented evidence – of something with implied seriousness. But there is a quirky lightness of being here as well; his pictures can have the quality of unattributed snapshots, anonymous ads, freeze frames from unknown films, or orphaned records of ruins.
The resulting portfolio -- “Oaktown” -- is a collection of many hundreds of pictures that collectively run counter to the persistently and intensively negative portrayal of “The Town” by most mass media. Oaktown dwells not at all on people and faces; but it focuses insistently on the statements urban actors make as they create their own private and public environment. Oaktown lets them have their say without freezing them in societal stereotypes.
Malcolm says that there is no one way or right way to view Oaktown, as pictures trigger memories or discoveries distinct to each viewer. Rather than trying to force a statement of his own, his effort concentrates on showing what goes so often unseen because of bias, denial, indifference, inattention, or just not being there on time. This “alt-Oakland”, as some have called it, is real -- another unusual way of understanding where we actually are.