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Sam Comen

www.thelosthillsproject.com


Jose on Chapulín in Lost Hills, CA. March 28, 2009.

Lettuce harvest near Huron, CA. March 27, 2009.

Easter barbecue in Wasco, CA. April 12, 2009.

Pomegranate harvest near Lost Hills, CA. November 2, 2009.

Lettuce harvest near Huron, CA. March 27, 2009.

Almond polers near Lost Hills, CA. September 16, 2009.

At rest near Lost Hills, CA. November 2, 2009.

Blood Alley Lowrider Club in Wasco, CA. April 12, 2009.

Almond storage in Lost Hills, CA. September 15, 2009.

Saturday morning in Lost Hills, CA. March 28, 2009.
Sam Comen

Artist Statement I take visual cues from historical portraitists, but instead of being commissioned to make opulent odes to the privileged, I make crystallized hyper-color portraits of everyday people in the social contexts and environments that define them. Inspired by the partnership between Walker Evans and James Agee that produced "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men," writer/filmmaker Alex Sherman and I traveled to Lost Hills, a town of 2,000 in the southwestern corner of California’s Central Valley to make a photo essay and written work that engages the region's storied place in the American collective memory. Rather than attempt to echo the memorable photographs made there though the W.P.A. during the Great Depression, in my photographs of Lost Hills I've applied the toolset of contemporary commercial photography -- saturated colors, deep depth-of-field, bright lighting -- to engage with the masterworks and highlight contemporary questions of migrant labor and unsustainable food production. On first glance it might appear Lost Hills’ residents are living an ideal version of the American Dream. They work hard in agriculture and oil production to improve their economic lot, and come together on their own time to elevate their community. I consider the photo of neighbors pouring a new driveway as a version of the iconic small town barn raising. But many of the residents in Lost Hills are undocumented, and may be cut out of the Dream they’re working toward. I’m fascinated with how they negotiate that tension, and seek to explore that in this series. In addition, the vast farms that employ many of the residents are wholly dependent on water imported from Northern California via the California Aqueduct. The sustainability of agriculture in the area is in question as California approaches its fourth year of drought. My intention is to document how residents cope with an uncertain future as they continue to work and live in Lost Hills.