Lisa M. Hamilton

Real Rural

In 2011, I traveled nearly ten thousand miles around California, to and from places most people have never heard of: Surprise Valley. Lost Hills. Mecca. Along the way I collected scores of stories using simple tools—several medium-format film cameras, a digital recorder, and a stack of notebooks. The result was Real Rural, a multimedia portrait of rural California. The project told stories through different venues, including an ad-art campaign on subway trains throughout the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit system, a storytelling website, and an exhibition at the California Historical Society museum.

In all these venues, the stories are not about issues, but rather about lives. That's because Real Rural was meant to start a new conversation, between two parts of California that are at best disconnected, and often at odds. Many people in our cities think they already know the story of rural California: who's there and how they think, their values and their struggles. I aimed to demonstrate that in fact this place and its people are far more diverse and dynamic than most of us from outside realize.

Visit the project website at:

Jesus, Junior Livestock Show. Alturas, Modoc County.