I originally posted this on my photography blog http://www.kenneshaw.se
I have been many places in my life, I was born in japan, raised on Honululu Hawaii, currently living in Stockholm Sweden by way of Umeå and Sävar Sweden. There is one place however that I call “home”. I grew up here, had my first love, found out who I was and at the time what I wanted to be. When I lived here all I wanted was to leave, and to this day I couldn’t see myself living here again. But for all it’s weaknesses, decay and desperation; I still call Herlong, California my Home.
My family and I moved to Herlong in 1992 from Honolulu Hawaii… Or more appropriately Hickam air force base. I was a military brat born and raised. We moved to Herlong to get a change in life, as good as the nature and life was in Honolulu, it’s not the best place to raise kids. That’s a story for another day.
I was less than enthused to say the least the very first time we landed in Herlong. To this day I still remember those first minutes driving up to the main gate for entry into the military base. The dry desert air made my lips crack almost instantly, a sandstorm was making it’s way over the town from Honey lake – Called a lake, but simply a dry lake bed at the time. Tumble weed blew over the road and me sitting in our rented car parked at the local store “Jimbobs”. (today known as Fed up bar and grill) I looked on in terror as the only person I had seen for the last half an hour was a police officer riding a bicycle towards us looking rather unfazed by the massive sandstorm. I don’t have pictures from that first day, but I can say this much: As much as I felt Herlong was a dead town at the time, it was a bustling metropolis compared to today.
Once known as Jimbobs general store
Used to be a shell gas station
While a lot has changed since I moved from Herlong – about 16 years ago now; I can’t say that Herlong has ever been a bustling town of activity. Though it was certainly a lot more active and alive when I lived there. Today it’s but a shell of what it once was, that could be said of it even when I lived there. Herlong has always been a shell of what it once was. Nestled high in the sierra mountains about 65 miles north of Reno, Nevada. Herlong was built during a time of war to protect military personal from Japanese bombs in 1942, Herlong never really became anything more than a dream. A lot of money, time and resources spent trying to build it up, and between different presidents wanting to pump up the military and others wanting to limit it, Herlong has always been on the budget chopping blocks. Little by little, piece by piece it has been outsourced from the military to private citizens hired by the military, to now military budget going to private corporations to hire private citizens.
The american dream
My Herlong high school had 125 students from ninth to twelfth grade levels. My senior high class had 24 students. However small that may seem; at the time we did have basketball team, baseball and even a football team (American football). We were pretty good all things considered. Today, the baseball team and fields don’t exist, the high school is combined from seventh all the way up to twelfth and most all military kids are gone. Herlong High school
A view over the high school football field
The little general store that I sat outside my very first day as a kid, had been bought up in 2006 and turned into a bar. Shortly after the markets crashed and the bar was closed; Today it makes for a great photo opportunity as the faded out Fed UP bar and grill is still visible on the now boarded up and closed down shop. The military is all but gone, the movie theatre, library, PX, credit union and just about everything else has been closed down. Everything I remember about Herlong growing up is gone – I remember spending my evenings running through “Title nine” a section of houses where most non-military lived right outside the gates. Now most the houses are left empty after the housing bubble, the few people still living there have for sale signs posted, for sale since 2007: With no buyers in sight.
one of the many houses now for sale – this used to be a church
Like most small towns out in the USA it’s inhabitants are confused; They see the reports of corporations and billionaires getting richer and richer – The usa is the richest nation in the history of the world, and yet the middle class has been getting decimated over the course of the last 40 years. In their confusion and anger they are vulnerable to the propaganda of the billionaire class. Like most of these small towns across america they are against big government – and pro billionaire and corporation. – This sick kind of reverse welfare where the rich keep getting tax cuts, stimulation and bail outs while the poor and middle class are expected to pay with gutting benefits, social security and selling off public lands among other travesties (austerity as it is so popularly known). Not realising they keep making their own situation worse and worse; they vote to decimate government, unions and public works and wonder why their salaries keep sinking and the government keeps laying off more and more workers.
In this race to the bottom propagated by their own desperation and votes (in this case for the right wing policies that are destroying them – this area is staunch republican and neoliberal) many have turned to drugs and alcohol. Several of my high school classmates have died by meth overdose – a sad reality in today’s poor white America.
With that said Herlong to me is a region surrounded by epic beauty and a town populated with the broken dreams of it’s inhabitants and a nation as a whole. And I love it here.
This is my Herlong in my vision as I experienced it during my summer vacation in June – July 2014 and 2015.
In a place like Herlong it’s easy to miss the beauty when all you see is desperation.
You can find the entire series under my portfolio here: http://kennethshaw.se/portfolios.htm