A first look at work by Oakland photographer Alex “Ghost” Rodriguez catches your eye like a sucker punch.

It is unexpected, demands your attention, and then energizes you. Being a long supporter of the Oaklandish brand, I now realize I admired his work before even knowing it was his. Browsing through the Oaklandish site, I came across “Kick Up Dust,” part of the “East Oakland” collection of t-shirts. The shirt displayed a black and white photo depicting a group of Oakland kids on their bikes leisurely riding across all lanes of the 580 freeway. In my opinion, it was great way to capture the spirit of Oakland: bold, diverse, together, and against the grain. In researching a local 510 photographer to provide some shots for the Oakland articles, I made the connection between Ghost and the Oaklandish shirt that caught my attention.

The rawness and realness of Ghost’s work is rooted in his humble upbringing in a working class Chicano family in East Oakland, specifically East 54th Avenue. He got his nickname as a teenager training in a boxing gym. In the ring, he was quick, elusive, and hard to hit, like a ghost. His nickname would later become appropriate for his uncanny ability to capture candid photos from ideal positions without anybody knowing he was there.

Ghost didn’t originally aspire to be a photographer, but like many 20-year olds finding their path, he fell into the profession. A few years ago, he had dropped out of community college, and being a sneaker head, he chose to work full-time at a prominent shoe store in San Francisco. Ghost quickly realized it wasn’t the smartest decision, as he spent a significant amount of each paycheck on sneakers from the shop. After getting into a disagreement with his supervisor and then quitting his job, he was forced into some serious introspection and soul searching.

After a dark, 4-month period being depressed and broke, Ghost impulsively picked up a small point-and-shoot Canon camera lying around his apartment and took pictures of graffiti and murals around the Bay Area, namely Clarion Alley. He found that he had a passion and genuine talent for taking pictures, and he worked hard at honing that skill. He upgraded to a professional grade camera and got more and more comfortable with taking pictures of things outside of the murals, including people. Ghost started posting his pictures online and gaining a buzz. Soon thereafter, companies and people were booking his services. His clients included Beastmode, BOSK, and Oaklandish. He has photographed prominent Bay Area figures at both professional and personal events. The list includes Too Short, Marshawn Lynch, Mistah F.A.B., and Los Rakas.

When Ghost takes pictures, he tries to capture a mood through the use of color and shadows. His more dramatic photos seem to be in black and white. He enjoys losing himself in other people’s worlds through their faces and their concepts. Through photography, he is transported to different places, and through his photographs, he guides us through that journey.

Fast forward to today, and the kid from Oakland is doing well for himself. Ghost has his own marketing company called 54 Ghosts and his own studio in Oakland’s Artthaus Studios. After doing consultant work for Oaklandish, the company hired him as their lifestyle photographer, and now he is their Marketing Director. Ghost says he has another big project in the works.

To see more of his work or for business inquiries, visit www.54ghosts.com.