We Are Oaklandish: Class of '22 Max Ornstil

Welcome to the Oakland Roots Class of ‘22, an intimate look at the 2022 USL Championship season documented through a player’s lens. When my G-dfather passed down a film camera just before preseason, I began taking photos of everything and it quickly became an accessory that didn’t leave my side. In an increasingly digital world, it was refreshing to take photos you couldn’t instantly critique or edit, each photo feeling unique and special. Not only was the medium appealing, but more importantly it provided an opportunity to document our perspectives. What the world sees of professional athletes can be seen through a filtered lens, often failing to share the humanity of our experience.

I remember early in my career, I was hesitant to take photos on the field before a game or a candid moment of my teammates, for fear that it would be mistaken for a lack of focus or professionalism.  Much of my life I’ve felt somewhat boxed in to the construct that if you are a serious athlete, then you have to be a serious athlete all the time.  The thought that you could be a photographer or creative while taking football just as seriously was not something encouraged or accepted. Football is something that I love and what I do, but it is not solely who I am.  I hope that through projects like this book, I can help shift the narrative surrounding athletes and their ability to be so much more than just that.

I am fortunate that I will have this book to look back on and remember what will ultimately be the last season of my professional career. Some will define our careers by wins and losses, statistics and accolades, but it is the little moments that make up each season that we will ultimately remember.  Also, I think it’s important to disclaim that this book is a highlight reel of the season and although it gives insight into our perspective as athletes, it is still curated.  What was not pictured personally was the doctor's office visits, time spent in MRI machines, physical therapy sessions, or days doing rehab in the facility by myself that made this year a challenging one. However, the opportunity to take the photos seen in this book gave me much needed purpose and an outlet that I’m grateful to have had.  

I want to thank my family, specifically my Mom, Dad, and Sister, who have supported me unconditionally throughout my career and every step of this book. Massive thank you to my teammates, who embraced this project and ultimately made this book possible. Thank you to Azael Garcia who made incredible contributions to this book. Thank you to the Oakland Roots for the space to express myself. I hope Class of '22 can give a sense of the unique experience of playing in Oakland, for Oakland.


Oakland is diverse, and Oakland is proud. 'We Are Oaklandish' is a storytelling project to highlight just that.

These stories shed light on the different experiences, memories, and opinions of the people in the city we all love. They are people who give our city its oddball spirit, its passion for justice, and its creative vigor. They lift us with laughter, peace, nourishment, and authentic hard work. 

They make us proud to call this town our home. They are Oaklandish.

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