Central Valley Portraits

by Yehuda Sharim

We are what we breathe. Surrounded by wildfires and combined calamities, our very own breathing is being challenged. Central Valley Portraits is part of this search for communal.
Oxygen. Wild.
Oxygen. Wilder.

•   •   •   •

This eternity is fleeting.
Anger will not help, only forgiveness, only hands, to touch and be touched by. You walk, one step then another,
You get cold, sick, better then broken
You want to forget about the wildfires wildviolcence wildpain
You find a home
You lose
You cry
You cannot control the moment You mourn
You don’t know how to forgive You get lost in war
You can’t go back home
You get angry
You are anger You wound You doubt You long
You fear
You walk
You don’t know how to surrender
You learn how to admit your mistakes
You leave, refuse to hear, escape, and then return
You agree
You ask for forgiveness
You hold cameras not to film but to be, be better, better be
You see
You see
Ana knows that it is not climate change that kills but lack of love
Maria-Helena cannot stop thinking about the future of her lost grandchild
Wendy celebrates her wig (“let me know when I will get famous”)
Jason says that he is here to give – “who are we without giving?”
Hector thanks you for making him cry about his father
Dominique says noting can make her leave this city
Dee Dee believes in unity, coming together, fearless
Near the train stop, someone tells you he is tired of the gunshots and killings in this world And Michael just wants to live
“I don’t care about hope. I just want to live. I just want to live.” This eternity is fleeting.


The times in which we live are times of dismay, anxiety, devastation, countless tragedies, hopelessness, and anger. All around us, beyond and within the U.S., democratic apparatuses are struggling to imagine freedom, throwing up nationalists, bigots, and fascists. How can we survive such mounting waves of suffering and loss? Where do we store and archive our wounds, anxieties, and uncaged dreams? And where can we locate the living archives for renewal and new times?

Over the last year, Yehuda Sharim has observed the grain and pulse of the city of Merced and the Central Valley as it lived, transformed, worked, tensed, ached, changed, and played. He surveyed the streets, bus stops, alleyways, fields, orchards, empty lots, storefronts, backyards, and the people. The sidewalk life and the fields, for him, offer a measured, attentive, and ultimately a generous view of a place and its people as they face compounded calamities. The choreography of the Central Valley, together with its irresistible beauty and brutal neglect, allow contradictions to exist side by side, dance and fly into one another, a cadence that produces disarmingly open images of exceptional power and longevity.

Sharim explores the exteriors of environment and community — scanning the skies for flocks of birds traveling in mass during sunset and encountering strangers who become neighbors. He charts a region, in the midst of a global pandemic, often overlooked as “the other California”; gaps and cracks widening due to loss, everyday precarity, and continued neglect towards its most vulnerable. While listening to his surroundings through photographed images, Sharim navigates personal interior spaces in response to them as well, articulating fragmented thoughts that touch on individual memory, shared grief, and collective hope.

Poetry and photography by Yehuda Sharim; curatorial assistance by Oscar Montero Hernandez; Spanish translation by Alma Alvarado Cabrera

©️Yehuda Sharim

The Valley of Somebody

For the better future of my family
Because you leave your family behind
To have them here for a better future
They can be somebody in life since
Over there
We couldn’t be

I hope that they will be
Somebody in life
Somebody in life
I didn’t have any opportunity to study there
And they
They might give their children a better future

El valle de alguien

Para un mejor futuro a mi familia
Porque dejas atrás a tu familia
Para tenerlos aquí para un mejor futuro
Pueden ser alguien en la vida porque
No podemos ser

Espero que sean
Alguien en la vida
Alguien en la vida
No tuve oportunidad de estudiar allá
Y ellos
Podrán darles a sus hijos un futuro mejor


©️Yehuda Sharim





©️Yehuda Sharim

The Valley of Escalars

It is very difficult to accept that you are beneath and then have to climb
Y escalar
Y escalar
Y aceptar
Only faith can bring us back up
Only faith can give us strength

El valle de las escaleras

Es muy difícil aceptar que estás debajo y luego tienes que escalar
Y escalar
Y escalar
Y aceptar
Sola la fe nos puede regresar
Solo la fe puede darnos fuerza


©️Yehuda Sharim





©️Yehuda Sharim

The Valley of Patrol officers

A piece of land
I want to buy a piece
Of land
I always dreamt about being a
Patrol officer
In the highways
With uniforms
I’ll save money
And I’ll build my family a home
In the meantime, I’ll work in the fields
Highways of Almond

El valle de los patrulleros

Un pedacito de tierra
Quiero comprar un pedacito
De tierra
Siempre soñé con ser un
Oficial de patrulla
En las autopistas
Con uniforme
Ahorraré dinero
Y construiré un hogar para mi familia
Mientras tanto, trabajaré en el campo
Autopistas de almendras


©️Yehuda Sharim





©️Yehuda Sharim





©️Yehuda Sharim

The Valley of Family

I believe in how I work
what I sell
The little that I sell is to support my family
My wife
My children
There are days that I do well
Others are not too much
With the little that I make I support my family

El valle de la familia

Creo en como trabajo
lo que vendo
Lo poco que vendo es para apoyar a mi familia
Mi esposa
Mis hijos
Hay días que me va bien
Otros no tanto
Con lo poco que gano mantengo a mi familia


©️Yehuda Sharim





©️Yehuda Sharim

The Valley of Everything – Take All You Want

You are talking about death
And your friend says: they are trying to kill us/
They are waiting for us to die
They can write a report about us
You try to correct
Him: they are not waiting
Death is here
Everything but blossom

El valle de todo – Llévate todo lo que quieras

Estás hablando de muerte
Y tu amigo dice: nos están intentando matar
Están esperando que muramos
Poder escribir un informe sobre nosotros
Intentas corregir
Él: no están esperando
La muerte esta aquí
Todo menos florecer


©️Yehuda Sharim





©️Yehuda Sharim

The Valley of I just want to live

I really don’t know what to believe in at this point anymore
All these politics
It’s just too much
I say
The American dream
Maybe one day
They will achieve it
One day
But I
I just want to live
That’s about it
It’s not hope (if there was hope in the world people would be better people)
I just want to live

El valle de solo quiero vivir

Realmente en este momento ya no sé en qué creer
Toda esta política
Es demasiado
El sueño americano
Tal vez algún día
Lo lograran
Un día
Pero yo
Sólo quiero vivir
Eso es todo
No es esperanza (si hubiera esperanza en el mundo las personas serían mejor)
Sólo quiero vivir


©️Yehuda Sharim





©️Yehuda Sharim





©️Yehuda Sharim

The Valley of Soon

I just take it day by day
I just hope that everything will get better soon

El valle de ahorita

Lo tomo día a día
Solo espero que todo mejore pronto


©️Yehuda Sharim

I hear birds and see barbwire

Escucho aves y miro alambre de espino