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Friday, 2 September 2011

Possessed: Varieties of Contemporary Religious Experience


Bail Bonds (open all night), downtown Berkeley: photo by efo, 15 November 2009

The oneiric wind moving the curtains soundlessly, no one inside, shadows looking in through the windows.

In plate glass, the phantom images of shadow people are blown hither and thither through the fog, like straw persons.

A shuffle promenade of the faithful, not quite a progress. Forgotten by their gods.

Wrecked fields where torn papers scatter in the wind, in the desolate parking lots of abandoned churches.

Atop the featureless concrete building, three crosses outlined against the sky.

The wind moaning, the dog someone beats distantly howling, but the dark need not fear the dark.

Half the sky for praying, the other half for the shadowed beauties of the night.

he street preachers argue among themselves about the Rapture again, the when and how, but not the why.

The shadows looking in through broken windows, the wind carrying their voices off, into the oneiric night.

Woman with shopping cart and dog, Berkeley: photo by efo, 25 July 2010

True Light Church of God in Christ and passer-by, Peralta Villa, Oakland: photo by efo, 21 November 2009

Abandoned church, Oakland: photo by efo, 11 October 2009

Oakland Super Market: photo by efo, 11 October 2009

J. Alfred Smith, Sr. Training Academy, South Oakland: photo by efo, 11 October 2009

Bethlehem M.B.C. Church and passer-by, South Oakland: photo by efo, 11 October 2009


Vision of Hope Baptist Church, Triumph the Church & Kingdom of God in Christ, and Muay Thai kickboxing academy with cyclist at night (Gaskill, Emeryville, California):
photo by efo, 20 December 2009

Allen Temple and passer-by No. 2, South Oakland: photo by efo, 11 October 2009

Islamic Center, Vallejo, California: photo by efo, 25 January 2010

Tabernacle of Praise, Richmond, California: photo by efo, 18 January 2010

Target is just a ride away, Richmond, California: photo by efo, 18 January 2010

Discover. Laugh. Howl. Vallejo, California: photo by efo, 31 January 2010

Son Bok Kim Died Suddenly (Longfellow, Emeryville, California)
: photo by efo, 18 October 2009

Chain Drugstore, Exterior, Albany, California: photo by efo, 23 December 2009

Berkeley: photo by efo, 14 March 2010

Everything (Berkeley, California): photo by efo, 21 May 2010

Hall of Mirrors (Southwest Berkeley)
: photo by efo, 12 December 2010

Circle S (El Cerrito, California): photo by efo, 28 March 2010

Trailer at Circle S (El Cerrito, California): photo by efo, 28 March 2010

Metropolitan and Spiritual Church of Christ and passer-by (Hoover, Emeryville, California): photo by efo, 28 March 2010

Little Club (San Leandro, California): photo by efo, 18 September 2010

San Leandro: photo by efo, 18 September 2010

Alpha Omega (Webster, Oakland): photo by efo, 18 September 2010

All photos 2009 / 2010 by the great anonymous East Bay urban landscape photographer efo, a poet-documentarian of old time religion in bleak new times


Conrad DiDiodato said...

Efo, urban photographer, is to the East Bay what Odeith, graffiti artist, is to the slums of Lisbon.

I see the same possessed aesthetics.



Thanks for this look -- true grit in "bleak new times" for sure. . . .


grey whiteness of fog against invisible
ridge, shadowed green of leaf on branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

think of this “thing,” that
therefore is not what

or but or which, at moments
maybe one, is telling

grey white of fog to the left of point,
lines of waves breaking across channel

TC said...

I was stunned by this photographer's eye for the broken down and abandoned belief structures -- and structures in general -- of the urban dispossessed. This IS the "environment", such as it is, now.

Ed Baker said...

I'm keeping my head/mind buried in the sand ...

dig this : our "leader" just lifted/relaxed his new, tighter regulations on toxic emissions into the air

I spent a few months in Richmond and Berkeley in 1970 or so ..
was thinking of moving there... and
then ...
heck, NYC is a "paradise" compared to what is here pictured...

as you say this is the NOW ! get used to it..... as, preying on Gawd didn't quite work, eh?

Ed Baker said...

here is one of the articles on those standards that weren't:

we got MORONS driving this bus ....

TC said...


On what was not too long ago a busy commercial street a block away from us, practically every storefront is now boarded-up. Food stores, restaurants, furniture store, dress store, beauty salon, camera store, sporting goods store, video shop, all gone over the past few years -- that last one taken over by a spiritualist/tarot reader. The movie theatre is shuttered and about to give way to an unmanned A.T. & T. wireless receiving station. The grocery store went bankrupt last week.

The ghostly view from the bus at night or from the streets at night is very 1937.

Yet there remain and flourish pockets of extreme wealth and privilege. Just last week a very famous restaurant celebrated its fortieth anniversary and it was a three-day spectacle of display of the very rich and well-connected.

The abyss between the few and the many is vast. Who knows what may be lurking in its yawning shadows.

Ed Baker said...

well "lurking in the yawning shadows" ?

start with a few movies before movies go the way of the books from whence they came:

All Quiet on the Western Front
Pig Farm
A Tale of Two Cities

the complete novels of Charles Dickens

throw in some Dostoevsky, Gogol, Pushkin, Gide, Sade

some Steinbeck and

to see/read the actual "of it" (the dumbed-down" check out SHE INTRUDES

ALL of the above are in black and white no half-tones OR gray-scale via computers' "rarity"

Lally said...

Tom, thanks for these and the words. Don't know if you ever checked out an L.A. version of efo's work called East of West L.A. by the underrated and overlooked poet but fortunately getting noticed photographer Kevin McCollister. Well worth it for similarly photographic epiphanies.

ACravan said...

I woke up and decided to "be up" (rather than up and unfocused) early to "catch up" and caught this or, as they say, it caught me. It's a remarkable, resonant assemblage of words and images. It's hard to believe they ever lived apart from each other and it seems foolish and pointless to try to pull them apart now that they’re together. What this makes me think about more than anything else is the time early in my career when I worked as an Assistant District Attorney in Brooklyn and I sometimes journeyed away from the office to conduct hospital arraignments (if the defendant was in the hospital) and hospital hearings (if the plaintiff had been hospitalized). My fellow travelers constituted a portable entire criminal justice system (prosecutor, defense attorney, judge, court officer, court reporter, policeman) and we drove into parts of the enormous Brooklyn landscape that were completely unrecorded in and outside of New York Times’ history. I was disappointed in my career at that point and regarded so much of my life as a dream that I hoped would pass away soon, so I tended to regard those Brooklyn dreamscapes as passing also and haven’t given them much waking thought until now when I see their shapes again here. As I’ve mentioned before, the drive along Philadelphia’s “Main Line” from Lancaster Avenue into Center City, i.e, from prestigious suburbs into the heart of Philadelphia, affords contemporary views similar to efo’s . These are new and the result of the last four years’ declines . My blood boils, but I know a lot of people feel this way. And others “feel no way.”

TC said...


"No way," indeed.

Bail bondsmen have plenty of business these days. In this region homelessness and violent crime have accelerated in proportion with the dramatic increase in public evidence of attenuation (and quite possibly imminent collapse) in what was once over-confidently termed the "social fabric". Last year, in the course of attempting to navigate these harrowing night streets, in these ever more scarifying times, I encountered, very much by accident (are there any other kind of public encounters, any more?) an extremely dubious-appearing fellow who related, surprisingly and apropos of absolutely nothing, that he had just been certified as... no, not a postmodernist... a bail bondsman. "It's a growth industry," he said. And then explained that his real profession was peddling drugs (he avowed that he had legal credentials for this), and that, being a homeless serial offender sans portfolio at present, he was living in a truck which had been supplied to him by the bail bond agency, for the purpose of rounding up and entrapping bail-bolting fugitives. Then he flashed his bondsman's license, and smiled, "with this, the law can't touch me now". I was reminded of Elvis, with his federal agent's credential.

Very, very weird times. Almost enough to make one "get religion".

Conrad and Michael, many thanks for the tips re. those interesting urban artists. Dark horror galore to explore, any more.

(Ed, where is old Dusty-whosky now that in our hour of great endarkenment we most need his narrative illuminations?)

Ed Baker said...

"Old Dusty-whosky"?hell he ain't "Old" he still remembers every
yesterday !

my mother was born in Manhattan in 1915 her sister &
Uncle Jack lived in Brooklyn .... forever ... 176 th & Lomgfellow... I used to spend much time up there in the 50's

can appreciate ACraven's .... take-away experiences...

then spent LOTS of time in Manhattan in 70's ( my main Muse was there... still is) and

again similar scenes every street a "foreign country" and dirty dirty dirty rubble-ized landscape..

si what to do? write it down.... check out (on my site) THE CITY...

same landscape then in the pictures-in-my-mind' and those on your post...

we just then as now made ruins and, now it is time to destroy (even) those ruins...

which seems to be the way Human Culture is now going

... the way the Roman Culture (also) went, etc...

Oh well... it was fun while it lasted. and, in 1967 (or so) my motto (that I made up in reaction to something Elaine Dow said about something we were rowing wasn't fun: "if it ain't fun, fuck it!"

and we did.

my advice? next election "vote for change"

((and save your "small change"



Yes, down there on San Pablo boarded up stuff (your account rings all too true), up there on Shattuck ultra chez chez Chez (with the rich and famous I'm sure, sure was celebrated all over the radio (Fresh Air, Forum) where I get most of my 'news' such as it is. . . .
Meanwhile, out here encased in a bubble of fog in which none of what Efo has pictured is in 'evidence' --


light coming into fog against invisible
ridge, shape of shadowed cypress branch
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

expressed by statement that
vanishes, as if given

two events, there will also
be here, dependent on

cloudless blue sky reflected in channel,
lines of white waves breaking across it

TC said...

Steve, Bolinas remains so beautiful in my memory, and in your poems, that fog can and did and always will only make it more itself, that is, more beautiful. No urban blight, anyhow. (A blight of multi-millionaires? best cloaked in the fog?)



Yes, "no urban blight, anyhow" -- some "multi-millionaires" (they say), and no where to park downtown on most weekends (especially if the swell is up (as it's been these last few days -- cars and people whether there's fog or not). . . .