Monday, July 04, 2011

The Story Behind the Sofa Free in Oakland

We all know my obsession with free seating for multiple people, no matter where the sofa, but of course I'm happiest with sofafree in Oakland. So encountering this article was a particular revalation. I have noticed an escalation of dumping in my neighborhood, and not just of lovely furniture. Trash, boards, dead animals, all the kinds of things I associate with the "ghetto." It's ugly. Sofafree, even at their most tacky, are NOT ugly.

The bottom line of the article, and I urge you to read it, no matter what your stance on roadside seating, is that Oakland (not surprisingly!) has a terrible big trash pickup policy. Basically, unless you own your home or live in a small building like I do, you can't schedule a bulky trash pickup. Most landlords aren't going to go thru the trouble of getting a dumpster brought out for their tenants each time they move, so to the curb your crap goes. I will admit I had NEVER been to a dump before I moved to Santa Cruz County, and I will also admit that I still don't know where the nearest one is. Looking now, I see it's off Davis, in San Leandro. Renters without much disposable income (which is what many moving renters are) have no incentive except goodwill and common sense to go to the dump.

Even better than this article is the fact that a reader was inspired to create a facebook page (I know, icky) devoted to the sofafree (or dumped couches, from his perspective) in the Adam's Point neighborhood of Oakaland. I've been inspired to make the slideshow above, which is devoted to only sofafree shots I've taken in Oakland since the series started. (There are way more, but not posted to flickr.)

It's weird how things come around, because almost exactly two years ago, I talked about sofafree in a philosophical manner. I get it that sofafree is trash, that it is blight, disrupting the landscape. But it's also a way to look at the landscape differently, sort of like street art, or good graffiti. It's a comment on where we are as a scoiety, of what we expect in our neighborhoods, of what "neighborhood" is. Knowing the background of what causes so many sofas to be lying around, besides just sheer laziness, backs up my theory that sofafree is a worthwhile photography/documentary subject, not just for beauty, but for provocation.

(Thoughts appreciated!)


Jason said...

Hi Mac,
Thanks for the post... would you believe there's more!

Anyway. I wondered if people got the original article I wrote.

After reading your post, I thought... why can't outdoor seating be comfortable.