Sheldon Bachus: A California Photographer

Born in San Rafael's historic Cottage Hospital, I am both by birth and at heart a San Francisco Bay Area native.

With the occurrence of my eighth birthday, my grandfather presented me with a little Kodak camera; I believe it was called a Brownie. One of my first photos was of Toby, our family dog. For some reason, maybe he just wanted to flatter his customers, but the owner of the photo shop in San Anselmo that developed the photograph felt the print was worth an enlargement. That small act nourished my confidence in both valuing and working with a camera.

As I grew up in San Rafael and mid-20th century Marin County, I carried my camera with me as I would hike the through the open countryside surrounding the Freitas ranch, what is now called Terra Linda. Through the camera's lens, I tried to capture the beauty of those softly rolling, sunburned hills of California, Steinbeck's "tawny manes of lions". Later, backpacking with my father into the Marble Mountains and the Sierra, although my little Brownie had evolved into a Minolta, the subject of my photographs remained the infinitely variegated landscape of California.

After completing my Masters at UC Berkeley, and throughout my career working with computers, I tried to find some time for photography. My subjects continued to be focused on the environment -- a quiet river riffle that had yielded some cagey trout, or maybe an aggressive buck unwilling to give way on a narrow Mt. Tamalpais trail.

In contrast to the natural world of the California countryside, nearly a decade working for the United Nations resulted in a collection of photographs with a broad gamut of subjects ranging from Arakanese fishing villages and Mauritanian desert dunes to Ghana's Aburi hill country and the black sand beaches of the Samoan islands. Much as Walker Evans' early career in Cuba influenced his photographic style, I believe my experience abroad helped form my vision, and ultimately photographic images, of how I view the world and the cultures it encompasses.

Returning in mid-life to the Bay Area I devoted my photography to narrating the story of an environment under siege, a fast diminishing natural world assaulted by a burgeoning population and its handmaiden, climate change. For the past thirty or more years, I have made California and San Francisco my home. With my camera I have tried to capture images of what was the Golden State as I once saw it, and somewhat regretfully as I see it today.