Sin Sombras / Without Shadows: A Search for the Meaning of Life, if There Is One, in the California Desert in Photographs and Stories
By James Barbee • Jack Leustig, Foreword
Ever wish you could push the “reset” button on the world in which you live as well as the one you carry inside your head? Are you tired of a culture that seems infatuated with wealth and the superfluous, where people can become famous simply by being outrageous or otherwise well known?
If that world is not working for you, perhaps you should consider a trip to the desert, just as holy men, mystics, prophets, and eccentrics have done for thousands of years, seeking solitude and inspiration, wisdom and direction in a land of extremes. This is what author Jim Barbee did, seeking Inner Space in the expansive California Desert that lies just 100 miles east of Los Angeles and the other coastal cities of Southern California.
Sin Sombras is Barbee’s attempt, in photographs and stories, to relive the California Desert: a landscape where there are no shadows (sin sombras), no shade, no place to hide or find relief. It is a wild, arid, and sparsely populated region, “flyover” country for most travelers, a place to pass through or endure, but also home to hardy individuals who live in one of the harshest climates on Earth.
The photographs were taken largely between El Centro and Barstow, California, including the famous Salton Sea. They depict the land, towns, people, and human artifacts that tell a visual story of pilgrimage, survival, and adaptation. The accompanying stories walk the boundary between fact and fiction and are offered as reflections on themes inspired by the pictures: awe, mystery, longing, death, mistakes, and the power of chance in our lives.
Sin Sombras is a unique work of artistic and spiritual exploration. One might even say it is a sojourn to find the meaning of life, if there is one, in the unforgiving but awe-inspiring world of the California Desert. Enjoy the ride.
I started editing most of the reviews in 2016 because my PhD in English (a humblebrag if you’ve ever seen one) has to be put to use somehow. So I know “the about” all the books and how good they are, which is super cool in general but also terrible for my budget. And I’m the one insisting on the Oxford comma. It’s the hill I’ll die on. I would kidnap Lily the office dog if a) I didn’t have three cats, b) I don’t also love Heidi and Ross and would never hurt them, and c) I didn’t just make a public record of intent to commit a crime. I also help with posting articles to the websites and doing book round-up articles.