Broke-Ass of the Week – Geoff King – Photographer and Civil Rights Lawyer
I first met Geoff back in September when I was guest bartending for a League of Pissed Off Voters fundraiser. At the time he was finishing up work on his project Such a Bitter Sweet Day, a book of photography and oral histories about the Marriage Equality Movement. He worked on the book with Sunny Angulo and SF City Attorney Dennis Herrera.
Besides being a documentary photographer, Geoff is also a civil rights lawyer. Dude turned down a job $180k a year job to work for peanuts in the name of fighting the good fight. So basically he’s a broke-ass for all the right reasons. Read below to get his insights on how he survives.
Also tonight, Thursday 12/10 is the release party for Such a Bitter Sweet Day. It’s happening at the Trigger Lounge in The Castro in San Francisco. Come by to support and to pick up a copy for yourself. All the proceeds from the main edition of the book are being donated to organizations focused on civil rights and health.
I’ll be there for sure.
Name: Geoff King
Occupation: Documentary photographer, First Amendment lawyer
What neighborhood do you live in?: Noe Valley, which I think means I’m supposed to have a baby or a dog by now. Seriously, I’m pretty sure there’s a city ordinance I’m in violation of.
What are you listening to these days?: I’ve been listening to a lot of rap from my hometown of Vallejo, where I spent the first 22 years of my life, and which became the first city in the history of California to go bankrupt last year; I live this broke-ass thing to my core, man. Anyway, I’m always listening to The Clash, Thelonious Monk and DJ Shadow. And if you give me an instrumental from a song by The Streets, I’m likely to bust out with a mean Mike Skinner impression.
I’ve also been going to a lot of shows by my friends’ band Hottub. They sound like the Beastie Boys (if they were the Beastie Girls), mixed with Digital Underground, combined with a huge helping of hyperactivity, all with a dollop of extra funk on top. They’re one of the best acts I’ve ever seen live, because they’re absolutely batshit craaaazy. I love ’em.
Best money saving tip: Make friends with 'œbusboys, poets, social workers, students, artists, musicians, magicians, mathematicians, maniacs, yodelers, and everyone else out there who wants to enjoy life not as a rich person, but as a real person.' They’ll put you on the guest list for their shows, trade your art for theirs, and if you find the right ones, they’ll either be genuinely humble human beings or genuine crazies; either way, you won’t need to do anything but hang out to have a good time.
What do you refuse to spend money on?: Cabs. Unless I’m about to black out, am with a friend who doesn’t want to walk, or am late for something important, I’m hoofin’ it.
Most expensive thing you’ve ever bought: My still camera.
How’d that feel?: Pretty great. I’ve been shooting documentary images centered on human rights, civil rights and civil liberties issues since the first day of the Iraq War'”nearly seven years now'”and it’s the first time I’ve had a really good camera and a couple of fast lenses that work well in very low light. It’s beginning to pay for itself, both because I am sometimes able to sell my work, and also because I donate a lot of work to nonprofits I believe in.
Favorite cheap eat: The tacos at Papalote. Most of them are five bucks or less, though when I’m walking somewhere instead of taking the J, or just feeling like a badass, I go for the pescado tacos, which are two bucks more.
Favorite dive bar: As a civil liberties lawyer and journalist, I am obliged to appreciate all dive bars, so this is a tough one. I love Zeitgeist, I love Wild Side West'”but I’m going to go with CafÃ© Van Kleef in Oakland, because whenever I’m there, I’m there with my rad coworkers.
Best deal you’ve ever gotten: My job, which is only possible because of my education'”so both. I turned down a job somewhere in the neighborhood of $180K a year when I got out of law school in May to make a tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of that, but I work with the coolest people in the world, I spend all day protecting the rights of activists, artists and journalists, and my boss is really cool about giving me time off to pursue my photo projects. Plus my law school is willing to pay off my loans since I’m such a broke-ass and being all righteous and stuff.
Favorite free thing to do: Well, Stuart, when two people really love each other . . .
If you woke up a millionaire, what’s the first thing you’d buy?: I’d put it away and have fun with the interest.
Despite not having money, do you still love your life?: I’m the luckiest kid in the world. Seriously.
Do you own my book?: With a sloppy-ass autograph inside, no less! (See the photo above). Do you own mine? Like I said, I take this broke-ass stuff seriously, so I’m donating all the proceeds from the main edition of my book to organizations focused on civil rights and health. Heaven forbid I make some money or anything.
Best hangover cure: I used to think it was coffee and water, but it’s actually coffee, water and a big-ass brunch. And maybe a Bloody Mary. Which ain’t cheap, but depending on the hangover, it’s often worth it.
Are you a hipster?: I’m not hip at all. I did just get a tattoo on my inner forearm, but it’s a section of the United States Constitution instead of, I dunno, a bird or something. So even the tat got imbued even with nerdiness. I just can’t help it.
All photos by Geoff King