Where are we and why are we here?

This is California. Not the mythic California of sunny beaches and Golden Gates. This is Badlands California, a country that used to be desert and wants to be desert again. A place where money still comes from dirt and hard work – and let’s be honest – there’s not a lot of money to go around.

There are farms in every direction. Unless you’re looking where nothing edible grows, and then you just see scrub and dry yellow grass. Refugees come here for work, from the dustbowl migrants to the hardworking hands of Mexico.

Our cities are few and far between, and they get beat hard by the sun. The smaller towns have a dusty feeling of two centuries past, while the bigger cities do everything they can to stay fresh, relevant, and alive.

The city in the middle of all this is Fresno. Home to a half-million souls, Fresno somehow manages to stay a small step ahead of the thermodynamic curve. If you get outside – assuming the blistering heat will let you – you’ll see faces of every shape and ethnicity on our streets. Cultures from all over the world interacting, working together and struggling against the pressures and prejudices that would tear them apart.

In the mountains to the east, you’ll find California’s true treasures. Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park and all the forests, unnamed hills and high peaks breathing out a full and lasting memory of the natural world.

California’s central coast lies a few hours to the west. Beautiful and barren, you’ll find rocky beaches and coastal villages and the kind of cool air that only comes from the sea.

In between it’s county fairs, farmer’s markets, upstart wineries, football games, long lonely stretches of highway and that one store in every small town where you can get a truly cold coke for the road. A tower of dust from the tractor on the horizon. A headlight coyote watching your car slide by at midnight.

My name is James Gathright. These are the places I take my camera, these are the feelings and people I try to capture. From the asphalt canyons of Fresno to the granite walls of Yosemite, I’m looking for the beautiful in the normal, the glory in the unglorious, and that one ray of sunlight kissing the side of your face as you, smiling, go about your day.