Real Rural: Photographs by Lisa Hamilton

California is often characterized as a state in which the north and south differ politically and culturally, but differences between its coast and inland areas may be even more profound. The current year’s drought exacerbates the coast-versus-valleys tension as major cities vie with the state’s agricultural center for water. Intending “to start a new conversation between the two parts of California that are at best disconnected, and often at odds,” in 2010, photographer and writer Lisa Hamilton secured a grant from the Creative Work Fund to collaborate with Roots of Change. She sought to bring images from the true lives of the state’s rural residents to its cities. Her project, from which photo-graphs appear on the following pages, gained broad visibility. For six months in 2012, selected images from Real Rural ran as an ad-art campaign on trains throughout the Bay Area Rapid Transit system. Later, prints from Real Rural were exhibited alongside vintage photographs of rural Californians in the exhibit I See Beauty in This Life, initially at the California Historical Society and now touring the state.

By coincidence, in her travels Hamilton visited and photographed poet Linda Hussa. An interview with Hussa and one of her poems appear in this issue as part of Charles Finn’s feature on rural poets.

Keith and Ileah Roquemore, with daughters Raci and Riata and horse D.H., Mendocino County Fair Rodeo. Boonville, Mendocino County.

Keith and Ileah Roquemore, with daughters Raci and Riata and horse D.H., Mendocino County Fair Rodeo. Boonville, Mendocino County.

Date palm with harvest ladder. Thermal, Riverside County.

Date palm with harvest ladder. Thermal, Riverside County.

Sebastian, eleven years old. Thermal, Riverside County.

Sebastian, eleven years old. Thermal, Riverside County.

Almond hulls. Lost Hills, Kern County.

Almond hulls. Lost Hills, Kern County.

Ashley, Riata Ranch Cowboy Girl. Tulare County.

Ashley, Riata Ranch Cowboy Girl. Tulare County.

San Jerardo Cooperative. Salinas, Monterey County.

San Jerardo Cooperative. Salinas, Monterey County.

Cemetery. Fort Bidwell, Modoc County.

Cemetery. Fort Bidwell, Modoc County.

Michael Preston. Winnemem Wintu Tribal Land, Shasta County.

Michael Preston. Winnemem Wintu Tribal Land, Shasta County.

Dennis Leonardi. Ferndale, Humboldt County.

Dennis Leonardi. Ferndale, Humboldt County.

Linda Hussa at Hussa Ranch. Cedarville, Modoc County.

Linda Hussa at Hussa Ranch. Cedarville, Modoc County.

Mauricio Espinoza. Coachella, Riverside County.

Mauricio Espinoza. Coachella, Riverside County.