Posts Tagged ‘california’

The Eucalyptus of Northern California by Kate Sawyer

October 28, 2010

© Kate Sawyer

© Kate Sawyer

© Kate Sawyer

I’m in the Bay Area for a few days before I return to Los Angeles and then to Buenos Aires. Killing some time yesterday I discovered at a bookstore the new magazine, California Northern. It deals with the land and culture that is Northern California [I grew up here]. The cover image by photographer Kate Sawyer shows the beautiful Panoche Valley, one of my favorite backroads over the coastal range into the Central Valley.

The magazine contains a wonderful photo essay on the unloved Eucalyptus groves that dot the northern part of the state. Considered an invasive species and frequently targeted for extermination, the essay considers the beauty of this Australian import that, after 150 years has become part of the landscape.

Richard C Miller – Freeway

October 17, 2010

I’m in Los Angeles right now staying with my dad. A couple of days ago he hands me the LA Times which has an obituary for Richard C. Miller, a hollywood celebrity photographer active in the 1940s and 50s. He asked me if I had heard of him. I hadn’t. The article showed a tantalizing photo showing the famous 4-level interchange of the 101 and the 110. The book Freeway, which is available on Amazon, shows the construction in the late 1940s of the Hollywood Freeway. Here’s a few images from his website:


Freeway, Richard C. Miller



Freeway, Ricard C. Miller



Freeway, Ricard C. Miller


The whole series, especially this last photo could pass for the New Topographic work, except this was 20 years earlier. Miller was also expert in the Carbro color printing process. Photoicon has samples of his color work, including photos of Marilyn Monroe from when she was still Norma Jean:


Norma Jean Dougherty in 1946, Richard C. Miller


Kristopher Stallworth – Periphery [of Bakersfield]

March 9, 2010

This weekend in Fresno I visited the Corridor 2122 gallery and saw the show Proof by photographer Kristopher Stallworth. I was intrigued and so checked out his website where I discovered his amazing series Periphery. Shooting at night and using his car’s headlights for illumination, Stallworth photographs the rough and ever changing urban edges of Bakersfield, CA, where he is based.

From the series Periphery by Kristopher Stallworth

From the series Periphery by Kristopher Stallworth

From the series Periphery by Kristopher Stallworth

I appreciate the effort involved in driving out to some ditch at the edge of town before dawn and waiting for that precise moment when the intensity of the dawn twilight matches that of his headlights. From Stallworth’s artistic statement:

The [headlights] transform these familiar places, details are revealed, while much of the area is obscured by darkness…. California’s Central Valley is one of the fastest growing areas in the country, and the influx of people causes the edge of town to constantly shift, as new sub-divisions and industrial parks spring up.

Ridgemont Typologies – Mark Luthringer

March 8, 2010

My last post about San Joaquin Valley towns got me thinking about  the series Ridgemont Typologies by Mark Luthringer which I came across about a year ago. It depicts various aspects of recently built suburban architecture in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Office Parks from the series Ridgemont Typologies by Mark Luthringer

I get a thrill out of seeing my home territory depicted in photographs. No water towers or steel mills here, just office parks exactly like the one I used to work in. The majority of places where people spend their time in California, northern, southern or central look like this. Luthringer, with the limitlessness of his digital camera, explores this sameness.

From his artistic statement:

I came to see that not only could I not take credit for previously existing form, I had no desire to.

I also love that Luthringer photographs in bright sunlight. To try to depict California otherwise is not a recipe for long term sanity.

Foreclosure, USA by Kirk Crippens and the fractal nature of San Joaquin Valley towns

March 5, 2010

I was at RayKo in San Francisco this week renting a darkroom and came across the book Foreclosure, USA by Kirk Crippens.

Cover image of Foreclosure, USA by Kirk Crippens

End by Kirk Crippens, image courtesy of the artist

Duplex by Kirk Crippens, image courtesy of the artist

Green Pool by Kirk Crippens, image courtesy of the artist

The images are from Stockton, California, a town in the San Joaquin Valley due east of San Francisco. In the boom years it became a bedroom community for commuters priced out of the Bay Area. Construction boomed with population growth and cheap mortgages, coming to a sudden stop in 2008, leaving many areas unfinished.

The whole of the Central Valley boomed during these years and all the towns lining highway 99 contain subdivisions of similar vintages and in similar states, be it large cities like Sacramento and Fresno or small towns like Selma or Dinuba. There’s a fractal nature to the towns because large or small, they all contain the same urban and suburban features [empty downtowns, Chevron stations, Rabobanks,  Save-Marts, Wal-Marts, craftsman bungalows, post-war schools, dense new subdivisions, etc]. The flatness of the Valley allows the development model of the moment to reproduce itself in a grid-like fashion upon the land in a way that is invariant to scale.

Dinuba has two such unfinished subdivisions each undertaken by mega-home constructors at the peak of the market; Muirfield on the south side of town built by Wathen Castanos and on the west side, Las Casas at Viscaya built by K. Hovnian [HOV, you’ll see their stock is down 94% from its all-time high at the time of this writing, altho it’s up 5x from its crisis low of 85 cents]. The names of the subdivisions are wonderful, too, for capturing the contemporary tastes and aspirations of local home buyers. Though I try, I can’t resist poetic images of decay. Here’s a sampling of my own snapshots from Dinuba:

Muirfield development © Thomas Locke Hobbs

Las Casas at Viscaya at night © Thomas Locke Hobbs

Muirfield in the Tule Fog © Thomas Locke Hobbs

The images in Crippens’ work offer a of west coast, stucco-version of the Detroit-style ruin porn that’s all the rage these days. An exhibit of Crippens’ photographs is currently up at SFMOMA’s Artists Gallery space at Fort Mason in San Francisco until March 12th, 2010. You can also purchase the book on Blurb, altho, unfortunately, Blurb’s prices are outrageous.

The Great Central Valley

February 18, 2010

One of the most amazing photobooks I’ve ever owned is The Great Central Valley, a project by photographers Stephen Johnson and Robert Dawson, along with writer Gerald Haslam. The big, heavy book details the history and geography of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys and is accompanied by immaculately printed, large format photographs.

Land Development, Lincoln © Stephen Johnson

A lot of the photos remind me of Richard Misrasch or Joel Sternfeld [early 1980s, large format, color, western landscapes modified by man, etc]. I don’t know why these guys and this book isn’t more well known. Buy it. You can get it used on Amazon for $7 which is a total steal.

Tule Fog

February 11, 2010

I’ve been waking up every day at dawn to go out and photograph. Especially exciting have been the days when the ground is shrouded in thick Tule Fog. Sometimes visibility gets down to a few feet. You feel like you’re in a zombie movie and everything just looks creepy and amazing.

The street outside my Aunt's house

Amputated orchard trees awaiting a graft

Italian Cypress on Palm Dr.

As my aunt said, at least somebody likes it.

Matthew Rangel; a transect – Due East

February 8, 2010

I had the great pleasure of meeting artist Matthew Rangel and seeing in person his stunning collection of prints entitled “a transect – Due East. The set of 12 lithographic prints documents his journey due east from Dinuba, his hometown, into the Sierra Foothills and to the summit of the highest peaks of the Great Western Divide.

Stronghold - Due East from Moro Rock, lithograph ©Matthew Rangel

The concept is a really simple one. Just a few miles east of Dinuba lie the highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada. Usually this view is obscured by the horrible air quality but on those rare days when a winter storm clears out the air, the snowy peaks gleam in the near distance. Inspired by just such a sight, Rangel decided to simply walk east to reach those peaks. Reaching them turned out to be not so simple as it involved crossing a lot of private property. Securing the permission from the various landowners to traverse their lands required several years work.

The prints combine layers of drawings made on the journey, historical and government maps and photographs to create a work that is literally multi-layered and reflects upon this landscape and man’s ownership and modification of it. I’ve always been a bit suspicious of the cult of the fine print in the photography world. This work, however, seen in person, best exemplifies the obsessive attention to detail, materials, and meaning. The prints invite and reward close scrutiny and extended viewing.

If you are lucky enough to be in Fresno this month or in March you can see Rangel’s prints on view at the San Joaquin River Parkway & Conservation Trust’s River House. The exhibit opens February 11, 2010 with a reception from 5:30-7:30pm. Also coming up on February 20, 2010, Matthew Rangel is speaking at the Three Rivers Arts Center as part of the Sequoia Speaks series [more info]


January 28, 2010

Dinuba is a small city in California’s San Joaquin Valley. It’s about halfway between Fresno and Visalia and is home to just over 20,000 people. My mom was born and grew up there. My aunt has lived there here entire life and owns the town’s newspaper, the Dinuba Sentinel, having inherited it from my grandfather who in turn took over from his father. The paper turned 100 last year and I’ve come to Dinuba to spend some time in the town and document the paper with my camera.

There’s a lot that’s fascinating about this town. I intned to write about it and this project of mine but I’m not sure just yet what to say. In the meantime, if you’re interested, I’m uploading some snapshots to flickr in a set I created called Dinuba 2010. Here’s a quick sample of some photos so far.

My aunt Diane writing her weekly column in her dining room

Photographing the closet that contains the Sentinel archives

Oak Tree and Canal in the Tule Fog

I’ll be back in Buenos Aires on March 14th. I can’t say I’m sad to be missing the oppressive heat and humidity of summer there.