Sam Comen | 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, admirative 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.

Sam Comen, July 2013

  Sam Comen

Sam Comen shoots environmental portraits in locales salient in the American collective consciousness, creating anthropological documents of place and social phenomenon.

Comen has been recognized by Photo District News, Communication Arts, American Photography, and the Santa Fe Center for Photography; he’s been exhibited both nationally and abroad; and his work has been commissioned by numerous publications.

Based in Los Angeles, he actively transposes the visual motifs of his commissioned magazine portrait shoots to his site-specific documentary work, bringing a consistent quality of light and composition to all his projects, portraying each subject he shoots with dignity and a sympathetic gaze.