Sheldon Bachus: A California Photographer and Essayist

Born in San Rafael a bit to the north of San Francisco, I am the fourth generation of my family to call Northern California my home.

On my eighth birthday my grandfather gave me a little Kodak box camera. One of my first photos was of our family dog, Toby. The owner of the local photoshop that developed the photograph believed that Toby's image was worth an enlargement, which my parents gladly purchased. That small act triggered and nourished a lifelong confidence in both valuing and working with a camera.

As I grew up in San Rafael and mid-20th century Northern California, I carried my camera with me as I hiked across the open Coast Range ranchland whose borders still followed the boundaries of 18th century Spanish land grants. Through the camera's lens I sought to capture the history and beauty of those softly rolling, sunburned hills of California, Steinbeck's tawny manes of lions. Later, backpacking with my father into the the Sierra Nevada, although my little Kodak had evolved into a Minolta, the subject of my photographs remained the infinitely variegated landscape of my native state.

After completing my Masters at UC Berkeley, and throughout a career working in information technology, I always 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 perhaps an aggressive buck unwilling to give way on a narrow Sierra trail.

In contrast to the natural world of the California countryside, nearly a decade of foreign postings with the United Nations produced a collection of photographs ranging in subject 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 resulting photographic images, of how I view the world and the cultures it encompasses.

Since returning many years ago to the Bay Area, I have 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.