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Lens Journey

Central Valley desolation focus of new photography project

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For their latest project, Valley of Shadows and Dreams, documentary photographers Ken and Melanie Light have captured the beauty and dismay in the Central Valley.

Fascinated by the development boom in the central part of California, they began exploring the issues affecting the valley—land and water use, economic disparity and population growth—through stark, lovely black-and-white photos. From farmers displaced by ill-conceived housing developments to the large numbers of children born with birth defects in Kettleman City, the stories and injustices in the book may surprise even born-and-bred Californians who thought they knew everything about the Golden State.

In an interview with California Watch, Ken Light said he and his wife wanted to explore the people “who are the spine of the valley, the lifeblood of the valley, who have been hidden in the shadows.” The Lights have done this before, to great success, with Coal Hollow, a collection of photographs and oral histories about the legacy of coal mining in West Virginia. After a five-year photographic journey through California’s heartland, they’ve produced a second book with as much power and grace as the first. The Lights appear on Wednesday, May 30, at the Venture Greenhouse. 30 Castro Ave., San Rafael. 7pm. Free. 415.721.0636.

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