Friday, July 31, 2009

The Origin of Sofafree

I was inspired by Whole Wheat Toast's recent stellar sofafree shot to discuss my fascination of sofafree. What *is* sofafree? Technically, and I mean this is a very serious, technical term, according to the king of sofafree, the sofafree pool on flickr, sofafree is free couches and sofas, outside of the home setting. Free seating if you may. It is also a a takeoff of the SF graff term sucka free. Pick your definition, I'm no slang expert. I am, however, developing into somewhat of a sofafree expert. If not an expert, an advanced beginner.

I have even published a book on sofafree. For some holiday last year (escaping me now which one), I made a book of sofafree shots for my mom. She had expressed interest in the pictures as a statement on urban life, and so I put together about 100 pictures of them- the majority mine and a few stellar examples from generous flickr donors. Sure, it was self-published, but that doesn't mean anything nowadays, right? I'm still published.

So WHY sofafree? Who does this- dumps a sofa on the side of the road, in a park, next to the freeway, on the sidewalk, etc. It's not just sofas people dump, it's just sofas I take pictures of. There are tons of mattressfrees, strollerfrees, dresserfrees, etc. And it's not just in Oakland- the fine folks in the sofafree pool are from all over- I see lots from LA and San Francisco, and Europe is represented. You'd think it would be a requirement to join the EU that countries have trained their citizens not to dump furniture. Guess not. And apparently, One Chicago blogger is so pissed off that he is starting a grassroots campaign to stop the dumping. I've only ever seen one sofafree being picked up by Oakland Public Works, though I've seen a variety of sofafrees (and other -frees) orange-tagged for pickup. This is a system I've never understood- why tag them and THEN separately pick them up? Why not just pick them up? There's a way to save Oakland money- eliminate a step!

best spot sofa free, cushion free

Anyway, I may have an insight to the why sofafree, as I have now seen someone make a dresserfree. My neighbor just moved out (thank goodness). I was pulling into my house the other day and I see her loading a dresser into a truck. I then see her driving the truck a block and a half to the freeway underpass where I have seen three or four awesome sofafrees (and a whole lot of other dumping) in the last 2 years. I try to stall going in the house, but it's too obvious. The next day I ask runningwdogs- yes, she had really dumped the dresser there. My neighbor had dumped a dresser under the freeway! Why not use freecycle? Craigslist? God forbid, the DUMP? Very odd, but definitely what happened. So I guess I don't really have an answer to the why- no idea why she did it- but she did it.

Now to the other why- why do *I* do it? I guess I find it fascinating. There are sofafrees in all kinds of neighborhoods. Just last week I spotted one in Piedmont and my heart skipped a beat. There is one by Lake Merritt right now that has been there over a week. It's always my dream to see them while urban exploring, and this week I saw TWO at Fort Ord. It's sort of a glimpse into society- what's in people's living rooms, or what was in people's living rooms. It makes you wonder who put the sofas there, why they put them there, where they're going. Are they moving? Did they get a new couch? How far did they haul the sofas, and how did they pick the spots to leave them? Did they just leave them in front of their own houses or did they put them somewhere else? Did they pick the closest underpass like my neighbors? When there are no cushions, did someone take them? Did the dumper put those in the trash? Do people ever take the sofas and use them or do they all get picked up by public works?

I don't know, I like them. It's like a scavenger hunt, and I get REALLY excited when I see them. I was running errands today, and pulled over to shoot a sofafree in a spot I had never seen one. On the radio was the soundtrack song below. It seemed fitting- for people who dumped the sofa, and for me, who shoots the sofas.

Check out my entire sofafree set. It's growing daily (both pictures from under the overpass, where my neighbor dumped her dresser).



thb said...

the best: sofa free...lots more out there, saw a few more in last few daze...