SAM COMEN PHOTOGRAPHY
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Lost Hills

Lost Hills is a town of 3,500 farm and oilfield workers located at the southern end of California's Central Valley; the same agricultural region where the “Okies” headed in search of work as they fled the dust bowls of the 1930s. Today a new group of migrants, this time Chicanos and Mexicans, again wrings a wage from the Valley’s parched soil. These individuals embody the bootstrapping grit and cooperative frontier spirit of the American West – and are living a new iteration of the “Okie” experience so prominent in our national psyche. But because some of Lost Hills’ residents are undocumented immigrants, all are assumed to be, and so may be cut out of their own American dream, and denied their place in the American historical record. I’m interested in documenting this knife’s edge of inclusion that these people negotiate each day. To highlight it, I transpose the motifs of my magazine portrait work – cross-sourced lighting, saturated color palette, admiring gaze – to this one-stoplight town. I believe the contrast between subject matter and visual approach mirrors the tension I see as inherent to life in Lost Hills.

 Almond poling crew during harvest near Lost Hills, CA. September 16, 2009

Almond poling crew during harvest near Lost Hills, CA. September 16, 2009

 Mini Campos breaks a still summer afternoon in Lost Hills, CA. July 17, 2011

Mini Campos breaks a still summer afternoon in Lost Hills, CA. July 17, 2011

 Cutting and packing red leaf lettuce near Huron, CA. March 27, 2009

Cutting and packing red leaf lettuce near Huron, CA. March 27, 2009

 Pistachio harvest near Lost Hills, CA. September 15, 2009

Pistachio harvest near Lost Hills, CA. September 15, 2009

 Harvest shelter, west of Lost Hills, CA. March 26, 2009

Harvest shelter, west of Lost Hills, CA. March 26, 2009

 Almond orchard and stumps north of Lost Hills, CA. March 27, 2009

Almond orchard and stumps north of Lost Hills, CA. March 27, 2009

 Almond orchard in bloom west of Lost Hills, CA. March 18, 2011

Almond orchard in bloom west of Lost Hills, CA. March 18, 2011

 Unloading pistachio trucks at the Paramount Farms plant near Lost Hills, CA. September 16, 2009

Unloading pistachio trucks at the Paramount Farms plant near Lost Hills, CA. September 16, 2009

 Almond harvest storage yard near Lost Hills, CA. September 15, 2009

Almond harvest storage yard near Lost Hills, CA. September 15, 2009

 Handpicking and sorting pomegrates near Lost Hills, CA. November 2, 2009

Handpicking and sorting pomegrates near Lost Hills, CA. November 2, 2009

 At rest during pomegranate harvest near Lost Hills, CA. November 2, 2009

At rest during pomegranate harvest near Lost Hills, CA. November 2, 2009

 The Quiñones and Medina families call on their neighbors in Lost Hills, CA. November 5, 2011

The Quiñones and Medina families call on their neighbors in Lost Hills, CA. November 5, 2011

 At the north edge of Lost Hills, CA. March 4, 2011

At the north edge of Lost Hills, CA. March 4, 2011

 Cousins at play on the day after Christmas in Lost Hills, CA. Dec 26, 2010

Cousins at play on the day after Christmas in Lost Hills, CA. Dec 26, 2010

 The Fuentes family's shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe in Lost Hills, CA. November 5, 2011

The Fuentes family's shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe in Lost Hills, CA. November 5, 2011

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

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

 The Mendez Tellez family at the California Aqueduct in Lost Hills, CA. October 30, 2011

The Mendez Tellez family at the California Aqueduct in Lost Hills, CA. October 30, 2011

 Looking north from Lost Hills, with almond orchards beyond. March 8, 2011

Looking north from Lost Hills, with almond orchards beyond. March 8, 2011

 Three generations of Malanche men work together in Lost Hills, CA. March 23, 2013

Three generations of Malanche men work together in Lost Hills, CA. March 23, 2013

 Climbing a salt cedar in Lost Hills, CA. October 31, 2013

Climbing a salt cedar in Lost Hills, CA. October 31, 2013

 Mini Campos repairs his go-kart in Lost Hills, CA. February 22, 2013

Mini Campos repairs his go-kart in Lost Hills, CA. February 22, 2013

 On the fence enclosing a yard of coops in Lost Hills, CA. March 22, 2013

On the fence enclosing a yard of coops in Lost Hills, CA. March 22, 2013

 Christina Rodriguezʼs 2nd birthday party in Lost Hills, CA. March 23, 2013

Christina Rodriguezʼs 2nd birthday party in Lost Hills, CA. March 23, 2013

 Baby takes the spotlight in Lost Hills, CA. February 23, 2013

Baby takes the spotlight in Lost Hills, CA. February 23, 2013

 Trailers in Lost Hills, CA. February 22, 2013

Trailers in Lost Hills, CA. February 22, 2013

 Eligio Jimenez hosts his nephew's birthday party in Lost Hills, CA. March 24, 2013

Eligio Jimenez hosts his nephew's birthday party in Lost Hills, CA. March 24, 2013

 Jose Saldaña and Sandy Melendez share a dance in Lost Hills, CA. October 29, 2011

Jose Saldaña and Sandy Melendez share a dance in Lost Hills, CA. October 29, 2011

 Controlled burn in Lost Hills, CA. March 10, 2011

Controlled burn in Lost Hills, CA. March 10, 2011

 Art Nolguen and his sons at the California Aqueduct in Lost Hills, CA. November 2, 2013

Art Nolguen and his sons at the California Aqueduct in Lost Hills, CA. November 2, 2013

 Roofing the newest home in Lost Hills, CA. November 4, 2013

Roofing the newest home in Lost Hills, CA. November 4, 2013

 Ezequiel Pimentel at work in Lost Hills, CA. February 22, 2013

Ezequiel Pimentel at work in Lost Hills, CA. February 22, 2013

 Pomegranate harvest near Lost Hills, CA. March 27, 2009

Pomegranate harvest near Lost Hills, CA. March 27, 2009

 Neighbors gather to pave their friend's driveway in Lost Hills, CA. March 28, 2009

Neighbors gather to pave their friend's driveway in Lost Hills, CA. March 28, 2009

 Mayra Sanchez in Lost Hills, CA. December 8, 2013

Mayra Sanchez in Lost Hills, CA. December 8, 2013

 Sofie Gamino in her grandparents’ kitchen in Lost Hills, CA. November 2, 2013

Sofie Gamino in her grandparents’ kitchen in Lost Hills, CA. November 2, 2013

 Mariachis and a meal on Virgin of Guadalupe Day in Blackwell’s Corner, CA. December 8, 2013

Mariachis and a meal on Virgin of Guadalupe Day in Blackwell’s Corner, CA. December 8, 2013

 A Christmas visit comes to an end in Lost Hills, CA. December 26, 2010

A Christmas visit comes to an end in Lost Hills, CA. December 26, 2010

 Looking south at dawn in Lost Hills, CA. July 16, 2011

Looking south at dawn in Lost Hills, CA. July 16, 2011

 Basketball at dusk in Lost Hills, CA. March 7, 2011

Basketball at dusk in Lost Hills, CA. March 7, 2011

 A game of Conquian in the park in Lost Hills, CA. March 4, 2011

A game of Conquian in the park in Lost Hills, CA. March 4, 2011

 With a new air rifle on Christmas Eve in Lost Hills, CA. December 24, 2010

With a new air rifle on Christmas Eve in Lost Hills, CA. December 24, 2010

 Gregorio Garcia carefully tends his family's lawn in Lost Hills, CA. March 29, 2011

Gregorio Garcia carefully tends his family's lawn in Lost Hills, CA. March 29, 2011

 After school in Lost Hills, CA. March 7, 2011

After school in Lost Hills, CA. March 7, 2011

 The California Aqueduct north of Lost Hills, CA. November 2, 2009

The California Aqueduct north of Lost Hills, CA. November 2, 2009

 Packing and loading red leaf lettuce near Huron, CA. March 27, 2009

Packing and loading red leaf lettuce near Huron, CA. March 27, 2009

 Guests arrive for 4-year-old Stephanie Jimenez's baptism party in Lost Hills, CA. July 16, 2011

Guests arrive for 4-year-old Stephanie Jimenez's baptism party in Lost Hills, CA. July 16, 2011

 Agustin and Judith Bernardino in their home of 32 years in Lost Hills, CA. December 27, 2010

Agustin and Judith Bernardino in their home of 32 years in Lost Hills, CA. December 27, 2010

 The nut packaging line at Paramount Farms near Lost Hills, CA. September 16, 2009

The nut packaging line at Paramount Farms near Lost Hills, CA. September 16, 2009

 Pistachio trees just before bloom west of Lost Hills, CA. March 26, 2009

Pistachio trees just before bloom west of Lost Hills, CA. March 26, 2009

 Chino Acosto in the auto shop he's owned for 17 years in Lost Hills, CA. December 24, 2010

Chino Acosto in the auto shop he's owned for 17 years in Lost Hills, CA. December 24, 2010

 Santos Quiñones at home on Christmas Day in Lost Hills, CA. December 25, 2010

Santos Quiñones at home on Christmas Day in Lost Hills, CA. December 25, 2010

 Summertime swim in Lost Hills, CA. July 20, 2011

Summertime swim in Lost Hills, CA. July 20, 2011

 A walk through the almonds in bloom in Lost Hills, CA. February 23, 2013

A walk through the almonds in bloom in Lost Hills, CA. February 23, 2013

 Paving new sidewalks in Lost Hills, CA. December 28, 2011

Paving new sidewalks in Lost Hills, CA. December 28, 2011

 Three generations of the Nolguen family on Christmas Eve in Lost Hills, CA. December 24, 2010

Three generations of the Nolguen family on Christmas Eve in Lost Hills, CA. December 24, 2010

 Jose Saldaña and Sandy Melendez's newborn son Valentin comes home to Lost Hills, CA. May 25, 2013

Jose Saldaña and Sandy Melendez's newborn son Valentin comes home to Lost Hills, CA. May 25, 2013