Crisscrossing California deserts for nearly two decades, driving thousands of miles and shooting thousands of images, Ray Carofano has been documenting the present as past in the desert of exurban Los Angeles. Portrait-like images render inhabitants, architectures, and utility with equal passion and objectivity. Broken Dreams, a serial investigation of abandoned dwellings, precedes Slab Dwellers, an intimate portrait of Slab City’s inhabitants.
The squatter’s paradise known, as Slab City is located on a barren stretch of Southern California’s Sonoran Desert badlands situated between the Salton Sea and Chocolate Mountain, an active military bombing range. The slabs are the last remnants of a World War II training base and provide the foundation for this unlikely, eccentric community of various outsiders – drifters, “snowbirds”, artists, addicts, and others – a community that accommodates extremes and tolerates a kind of freedom that expands the margins of society.
Slab City is an eclectic collective of independent, authentic individuals seeking freedom from a broad spectrum of perceived restraints from high rents and taxes to tyrannical rules and regulations, to the pressures and harassment felt by the underclass. Anarchic at its core, and infrastructure-free – no utilities, rubbish removal, sewage system, fresh water, electricity, etc. – Slab City endures in the harsh desert environment, barters its way through poverty, and boasts a cyber café, library, golf course, and performance space, all thanks to socialist principles of giving based on ability, and receiving based on need. To many, the enclave could well represent a post-apocalyptic vacation zone.
Painter, Curator & Professor of Art