All photographs are historical photographs. Whether they existed for seconds or millennia before the shutter clicks, the objects in the frame all have a history. Without knowing that history, photographs can become dead objects, untethered in time and space. The author uses contemporary photographs of Tulare County and archival and contemporary photographs of F Ranch in Point Reyes to show how the history of a landscape is revealed.
This is a photographic essay centered on the Carquinez Straits, particularly Mare Island. Once the Carquinez Strait was a center of the California economy. In the nineteenth century it was the center of the wheat trade. In the twentieth century, it was the center of the military industrial economy. Now Vallejo is Broke Town, USA, as the New York Times put it, and Mare Island has become a place were much of the old California is turned to scrap and shipped elsewhere. It is an industrial Pompeii, but it is also an instructive and hardly hopeless place. It is in many ways diagnostic of modern California, but the diagnosis is hardly hopeless.