By Gui Oliveira
Richmond District photographer Yameen has basically lived his entire life in pursuit of creativity. His passion for creative expression began at the tender age of 6 or 7 with a Fisher-Price 110mm film camera, a hobby that would eventually develop into music and video production in his teen years and into adulthood.
In high school he learned how to roll, develop and make his own prints. He continued to shoot film into his adult years and in 1998 purchased his first digital point-and-shoot camera.
Yameen is originally from Philadelphia. He first moved to Oakland in 2001 after building a website for his favorite band, the Hieroglyphics, based in Oakland. The group spotted the website and asked him to make it official. Over time, he also went on to play music with the group.
“Back in 1995 that was not common, and we ended up getting a lot of media attention because of that,” Yameen said. “So, at the age of 16, I became like a professional in the music industry”
In fact, as a young adult, Yameen dropped out of college after one semester to pursue music professionally, he made the Bay Area his permanent home. He bounced between Oakland and San Francisco until settling in the Richmond District in 2008 where he and his partner currently reside.
The Richmond District is like Yameen’s canvas for street photography with its dense fog that blankets the neighborhood, along with the grid-like streets lined with ordinary yet unique family homes he has come to appreciate through a lens.
Yameen’s street photography style enables him to see, capture and document the ordinary, many day-to-day happenings that go unnoticed. Rather than wandering around the bustling areas in the City, like the Mission or Civic Center, he usually prefers the stillness of the Richmond District and western neighborhoods.
“I just go through life kind of sifting through everything – the good, the bad, the awkward, the hilarious – and just curate that as part of my life,” he said. Ordinary things like an empty laundromat, vehicles parked on the street, or an exterior shot of a local shop are some of the things he focuses on when exploring the streets with camera in hand. One particular photo of the 4 Star Theater he captured at night in the midst of thick fog made the picture so much more dramatic.
One big motivator for his photography is the need to document the places he visits. The big challenge in street photography in essence is to capture “people in their moment, in their element, and I just love seeing that and documenting that. I love documenting life,” he said. It’s a style of photography that requires time, patience, creativity and perhaps some luck to be at the right place when that photographic moment occurs.
Yameen shoots with a Fujifilm X100V, a digital-rangefinder-style camera at a focal length of 35mm for street photography. He also owns a Nikon L35AF film camera that was made in the 1980s and shares similarities to the X100V. But despite shooting film for many years, it’s become pretty expensive, so he usually ends up taking the rangefinder out on neighborhood walks. His post-production work is very minimal editing for white balance, brightness and shadows in a film lab.
Yameen recently teamed up with Nicole Meldahl of the Western Neighborhoods Project (WNP) to photograph its recent exhibit at the Cliff House. Preserving San Francisco’s western neighborhoods is the WNP’s mission.
“We love Yameen and have highlighted his work in the past. The timelessness of his photography is what caught our attention,” Meldahl said. “His framing and perspective are so wonderful, intimate. You can tell the person looking through the lens loves this City.”
See more of Yameen’s photos on Instagram @filmhowyalike or at yameen.com.
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