In 2009, Sam Comen, a photographer from Los Angeles, began a five year photo journey in Central California. He originally wanted to parallel the effects of the recession to the Great Depression. So he turned to the San Joaquin Valley for photo opportunities.
He landed in the rural west side community of Lost Hills and produced the series named after the community of 3,500, which has gained national attention since.
“I did not find what I was expecting. I was expecting a politically charged place at the intersection of big agriculture and water, but what I found instead was a very out of sight out of mind town that actually symbolizes a lot more than I thought it was going to symbolize.
It ended up that the community that welcomed me in and the people I got to know there really for me became emblematic of a wider American experience. This town for me has become a microcosm of a larger American coming of age story.”
Comen says the attention to the project came in part because he stayed true to his photo style.
“I felt in order to honor the access people granted me into their lives I wanted to present it in an a way that would become initially visually compelling for a community of viewers, all of your listeners, all of your colleagues, we look at so much imagery that I felt like I need to create imagery that really had the same kind of pop and saturation that I use to make icons out of the people I photograph for national magazines.”
His work will be displayed alongside two other artists at the Bakersfield Museum of Art depicting life in Kern County beginning Thursday May 15.
For more on the exhibit “Kern County at a Distance” visit: http://bmoa.org/.