These photos are about the high school I attended as a teenager in Porterville, a working class town, about two hours north of downtown Los Angeles during the late 80s and early 90s. I worked on the high school newspaper and the yearbook but many of these photos were never published.
However, looking back on these images almost 20 years later I see their cultural value. I see immigrants among my native born classmates. Sometimes, I see the division. In some images I see an ironic apathy. I see the disenfranchisement of certain cliques from others. The community in this milieu is both real in its concrete existence and also constructed by different paths each of us are already taking in our lives. There is nobody specific to blame this on but it is obvious this is a divided place.
I certainly don’t have the answers to the social divisions some of these images show, but I find these images intriguing anyway.
I spent all four years of high school taking pictures. It probably wouldn’t be a big deal, since a lot of people do this, but I’ve come to realize the photos I made might be significant. This thought came to me when I was browsing the books at the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC a year ago and discovered that French writer and sociological theorist Jean Baudrillard had written about my town in the mid-80s, calling it a near perfect example of post-modernism.
However, I’m not sure Baudrillard totally understands what’s it’s like to live in Porterville or America because after all he’s from France. There are some things he’s very wrong about. He’d have to live in Porterville for a few years, before making sweeping assumptions about where I’m from just like I don’t know a thing about France … just what I’ve seen in some Jean Luc Goddard films which are fiction.
When I read Jean Baudrillard writing, in this book titled, “America” about the fakeness of my town, the aspects of colonization to make others somewhere else rich, I have to somewhat agree (though I know some people I went to high with will agree with neither Baudrillard nor myself – that’s the nature of the Post-Modern condition).