WE Q&A: Mike Bucci, Photographer, Oakland

Art Murmur is a gathering that takes place every first Friday of the month in downtown Oakland, California. Streets are blocked off and artists, photographers, skaters, musicians, magicians, food trucks and anyone who is generally looking for a good time will be there. Having lived in Oakland for two years, this quickly became one of my favourite things in the world. However, the media almost only portrays Oakland as one of the most dangerous cities in the United States and while I won’t deny its crime rates, I feel it is often a shame that the art scene is neglected. People aren’t talking about it enough. The constant collision between creativity, poverty and violence pushes artists to utilise creativity in making Oakland a better city.

Introduce yourself
I’m a California local, born and raised in Santa Barbara. I’m currently attending school at California College of the Arts located in Oakland. I’m receiving my BFA in photography. I’ve been a avid picture taker my whole life, as a kid I was a big fan of disposable cameras until I got my hands on my aunt’s Minolta 35mm SLR, although I dissected and played with that camera more often than I shot with it.

I didn’t consider myself a photographer until half way into my studies at CCA in photography when I realized that I could communicate through my images.

Could you tell us about your series “For Anna” and “Anna, thanks”?
The project “Anna, Thanks” is an art documentary on the life of Anna Outlaw and her family and community. I followed Anna around in her daily life; I attended church with her, we would frequently go to the swap meet. I even started doing volunteer work with her at a small food bank that was functioning out of a tiny church located in the heart of West Oakland. We quickly became big parts of each other’s lives; she often introduced me to her friends as her son.

The photos titled “For Anna” are portraits from the first interaction I had with her. It all started as school project to document a stranger. I lived next door to Anna for a year without ever formally meeting her. Just a polite “hello” exchanged in passing. I was intrigued by her outgoing personality, so I decided to knock on her door in attempts of photographing her. She invited me right into her house without any hesitation. It was a very rewarding two hours and two rolls of shooting with good conversation until she grew tired and we arranged for me to come back the next day. When I came back the next day she refused to let me photograph anymore and demanded the rolls of film back. She was advised by her sons to do so because they thought I was up to no good. I already developed and scanned the film, I returned later that day to reluctantly give her the negatives. I was very disappointed with this outcome, I didn’t understand at the time that they were protecting someone special. Six months later I showed the photos to my professor and he was so excited about the photos that we went to Anna’s house and he persuaded her to let me continue to work with her. She was so taken by him that she agreed and I’ve been working with Anna ever since.


How do you feel about the Oakland art scene and being an artist there?
The Oakland art scene is definitely interesting. The City itself has been going through a revival in the last decade, in the four years that I have lived here it has grown tremendously.  The city of Oakland is being rebuilt on its art culture. The Oakland Art Murmur has expanded so rapidly in the last year, it’s funny to think an art walk has become the biggest event in Oakland. The art that is exhibited around Oakland is very refreshing. For what it might lack in sophistication it makes up with intuition and spunk. The one thing lacking in the art scene are dedicated photo galleries. Photography is definitely not the medium of Oakland.

How did “Nite Mike” come about?
The project Nite Mike is my alternate persona. I am a self-diagnosed acute insomniac that has a great curiosity for wandering about the city. I have always been a reserved and shy person for my entire life. I realized that I was only going to get over this if I forced myself to go out and meet new people. I have found that a camera is the easiest way for me to meet people. So I carry my point-and-shoot around with me on my insomniac strolls through the city and force myself to interact with people I would not otherwise. I created nitemike.com as a venue for the images to exist that is easily accessible to anyone that I encounter and photographed.

What’s next for Bucci?
I’ve lived in California my entire life and have grown into the concept that California is its own country.  So I am planning on moving to the east coast upon the completion of schooling in Oakland this year. My family is from Rhode Island and I have been toying with the idea of starting a project there. Living and working abroad I hold at great interest, but for now I’m taking it one step at a time. Baby steps.

http://www.snoochibucci.com and http://www.nitemike.com

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