An intimate portrait of Oakland’s barber shops through GIFs and sound.
In her 1977 text On Photography, Susan Sontag wrote that “To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” She was writing about death—the way that a photograph marks the end of the present and, as a result, often produces nostalgia. Photographs do what humans (with biology alone) can’t: they stop time. These frozen moments that inundate billions of lives can represent good times now lost, or the desire for a better future. Photographs represent the inescapable change in our lives, and the impulse to capture the fleeting moments before they’re gone forever. By creating his series Tapered Thrones, Brandon Tauszik predicts change in a distinct community: barber shop owners and patrons in Oakland, CA.
The project began when Tauszik observed a total lack of corporate barber shops in Oakland: “[The United States] are notoriously full of corporatized variations on independently owned businesses; places to buy groceries, sandwiches and coffee, tools and hardware. You name it—we’ve replicated it, cheapened the process, and scaled large.” This realization acted as a springboard to his investigation of black- and African American-owned barber shops in his neighborhood. Drawing from his background in film and photography, Tauszik chose the animated GIF format as a way to utilize the best of both media. The portraits and “still lifes” fluctuate between the timelessness of a photograph and the expansive narrative depth of film. The seamlessly looping images offer an unselfconscious view into a relaxed milieu. The sense of intimacy further amplifies with the addition of written quotations and sound recordings Tauszik made in the shops. In spaces where community and socializing are crucial elements of the businesses, the audio brings an added dimension of humanity: the sounds penetrate the photographic façades.
Though they certainly function as nostalgic reminders of the past, both figuratively and literally—some of the barber shops have already closed due to Oakland’s rapidly changing economic climate—the GIFs exist in a space separate from still photographs or film. Tauszik may be slicing out moments of time, but he doesn’t freeze them entirely. Instead, he allows them to stay fluid; a state in which life can emerge.
—Amelia Rina, Arts Editor
I used to get cut here when I was a kid. My clients are regulars, mostly neighbors with a connection to what’s going on in the neighborhood. This is the Facebook right here.
Shop: Johnson’s House of Styles
This is one of the necessities that’s hands on, you can’t get no haircut on the internet. Here we call people by name.
Shop: All About Business
Black men promoting peace, love, and unity in an inner-city community. As we open up our doors every day, we’re just trying to be some conscious brothers.
Shop: Room to Groom
Not trying to sound racist but it’s a different kind of art to cut black hair, you can’t be one dimensional. Out there in the suburbs, their clientele caters to a different type of haircut.
I’ve been shot in the chest at point blank range, left for dead on the sidewalk. But this is what God had in store for me.
In this shop you’re gonna learn how to respect authority.
Shop: Pull Your Pants Up Barber Shop
You get two or three generations coming in here sometimes. I just crack up how they come and say ‘Hey, you used to cut my hair when I was a little fellah!’ I say ‘yea maybe.’
Shop: Cuts & Bends
Barbering is one of the few trades, like construction, that really works with felons. This is a way to provide for your families and it’s a legal hustle.
Name: Ms. Munene (owner)
Shop: Brothers Barber College