Join us for the opening celebration of I See Beauty in this Life: A Photographer Looks at 100 Years of Rural California. This exhibition was curated by writer & photographer Lisa M. Hamilton, the first visiting scholar in a new series Curating California.
About the exhibition:
In many people’s experience, California consists of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, and the highways that connect them. In reality these urban centers make up only a fraction of the whole; according to the 2010 Census, geographically the state of California is more than 94 percent rural. Surprise Valley, Lost Hills, Raisin City, Mecca—these are the communities that make up “the rest” of California.
Over the past two years, writer and photographer Lisa M. Hamilton has been telling the stories of these rural communities in her multimedia work Real Rural. For this exhibition she has delved into the collections of the California Historical Society to connect these present-day stories with the past. Featuring roughly 150 photographs, I See Beauty in This Life is a combination of large-scale color prints by Hamilton and her selections from California Historical Society’s vast photography collections—material dating from the 1880s through the mid-twentieth century, much of which has never been exhibited before. Led through CHS’s vast collection of historic photographs by the director of Library and Archives Mary Morganti, Hamilton has selected images that are not predictable views of pastoral windmills or heroic mule teams, but rather images that reflect her own keen interest in revealing the unexpected. Her approach to the Historical Society’s collections is different from that of an historian in that her first priority was to choose images that are outstanding for aesthetic reasons. Taken by amateur and mostly unknown photographers, the photographs are remarkable for their beauty and unusual perspective. These press prints, snapshots, and publicity stills are also intimate records of struggle, celebration, community, and the endless work required to wrest a livelihood from the land. Together, they tell a complex—and sometimes humorous—story of the many different individual lives and landscapes comprising the vast mosaic that is the Golden State.
I See Beauty in this Life: A Photographer Looks at 100 Years of Rural California is on view from October 28, 2012 through March 24, 2013. The California Historical Society Gallery is open Tuesday through Sundays from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. each day.
When & Where
California Historical Society
Our mission is to inspire and empower Californians to make the past a meaningful part of their contemporary lives.
The California Historical Society holds one of the richest collections of primary and secondary materials in the state on the social, cultural, economic, and political development of California.
The Gallery provides public access to the collection through changing exhibitions, Tuesday through Sunday, 12:00 to 5:00 p.m.
The North Baker Research Library provides public access to the collection, Wednesday through Friday, 12:00 to 5:00 p.m.