Tough Times in California

Tough Times in California

                                Santa Barbara Chapel, Randsburg California

The first time I caught a glimpse of Randsburg California was in Paul Sample’s depression era painting Celebration. The painting depicts the scrappy mining town on Independence Day – four miners in varying stages of intoxication populate the foreground amid mine headworks and empty liquor bottles. The light is clear and hard with a muted, dusty palette. Residents of the town are depicted off in the distance in a way that brings to mind Pieter Bruegel’s 16th Century landscapes – but that’s not the point: living in a Mojave Desert mining town in the 1930s was somewhere near the end of the line. It’s the same today.

Ever since gold was discovered near the Rand mine in the late 19th Century, Rand Camp as it was known has been hanging on. According to the 2010 census there are 69 residents. The town sits in the center of the Mojave Desert between Death Valley and the Sierra Nevada one mile west of highway 395. There’s one cemetery, one church and two bars. The watering holes are closed five days a week. The chapel was built in 1924 and is held up with what could be called improvised flying buttresses – unpainted joists holding the exterior walls in place on the east elevation.

I shot this frame from Butte Avenue using my Rolleiflex f/3.5 (Schneider) loaded with Kodak TMX100 through a red #25 filter. The day was still and my Leitz Tiltall tripod was hot to the touch. The the only sound was the warm wind blowing through overhead power lines. I couldn’t help but think of the miners in that 1930 painting, dead drunk in the summer sun.

Signed, open edition prints of this image are for sale starting at $100. Contact me at  if you’re interested. Prints vary in size and cost beginning with 10 x 10″.

About John Durant

Professional photographer in California
This entry was posted in American Photographic Artists, Architectural Photography, B&W negative film, f/64, Film, Kodak P3200, Kodak Plus-X, Kodak T-Max, Kodak TMY, Kodak Tri-X, Mojave, Randsburg, Sierra and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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