FOURTH OF JULY, USA

The village…has not forgotten how to celebrate the Fourth of July in the old-time way. Early on the morning of the holiday, a crowd gathers from the hills as if by magic: old folk who remember when the big lumber mills operated and there was an abundance of money; young people who know only that the land has been washing away ever since the mills “cut out,” and that the crops are poor; and, of course, a speaker who addresses the milling crowd from a flag-draped platform. The speaker knows that his listeners believe emphatically, as did their fathers before them, in democracy and individualism, and it is of these he talks. After the speech, there is a barbecue, at which everyone helps himself to anything he wants. The women visit, discussing rural news or exchanging recipes, and the men engage in hog-calling contests and horse-shoe tournaments. The boys try to win the admiration of the girls by climbing a larded pole or catching a greased pig.

Missouri, A Guide To the Show Me State (WPA, 1941)

In the afterglow of the fireworks, we here at A/G HQ are wiping our hands from the larded pole and greased pig contests and wanted to share a big thanks to all the folks who are our Guides to the US of A. We are constantly amazed, astounded, and awestricken by their work and feel privileged to be able to share it with our audience. (Audience, we hope you’re following each and every one of their respective Tumblrs. Seriously, get on that.)

Above—Independence Day through the lenses of some of our A/G guides (from top to bottom, left to right):

Tammy Mercure 

Amadee Ricketts 

Jon Creamer 

Brandon Getty

Stephen Dyer

Tara Wray

James Orndorf

KC O’Connor

Jordan Smith

Ken Kornacki

You can find the rest of our unbelievably fantastic Guides and their respective Tumblrs, Flickr pages and various other websites on our Guides pageLearn how to be a guide yourself here.

SIKH PARADE - STOCKTON, CALIFORNIA

“I just got back from the Sikh Parade,” I tell my friends. “The what?” they say. “The Sikh Parade. Starts near the beginning of San Joaquin Street, snakes through Downtown and across Weber, then back up California Street. Ya know?”

“Never heard of it.”

I’ve attended the Sikh Parade for three years in a row now, and I maintain that it is one of the most enjoyable and liberating events that Stockton, California, has to offer its residents.

Fresh, delicious Indian food is available on every street corner. Cultural music spills out of float speakers as they roll by. A wash of vibrant, colorful fabric streams through the street — collecting the bright spring sunlight and reflecting it against shop windows and the dashboards of parked cars.

In 2012, the April parade preluded the October celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Stockton Gurdwara on South Grant Street. This temple is the first permanent Sikh settlement in the United States, and Sikhs from all over the California Central Valley come to visit and participate in the parade’s progression through the city.

The Sikh parade happens each year at the tail end of April. 

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Brandon Getty is a State Guide to California, specifically the Central Valley region and his home city of Stockton. Follow on Tumblr at Maps to Stockton, on blogspot at Shooting Daggers, or on his Carbonmade Portfolio.

MT. DIABLO 

On a hazy day in central California, Mt. Diablo can be viewed from Interstate 5 as a faint watercolor splotch on the horizon line. During the right sunset, it’s silhouetted inky black against a backdrop of pastels. If the shoulder is wide enough, feel free to pull over and marvel.

Though the view on a crystal clear day can’t be beat, make an effort to visit during foggy seasons. When visibility is a mere four feet and you’re at the very edge of a vista it is pure, wonderful solitude.

You can convince yourself that you’re floating, if you really try.

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Brandon Getty is a State Guide to California, specifically the Central Valley region and his home city of Stockton. Follow on Tumblr at Maps to Stockton, on blogspot at Shooting Daggers, or on his Carbonmade Portfolio.

MAPS TO STOCKTON HOLMES

On the morning of June 27, 2012, Stocktonians each paid a dollar to buy a copy of The Record, the city’s daily newspaper. Though the headline leapt off the page with typographic urgency, it surprised no one: “BANKRUPT!”

It was bad news piled on top of more bad news for Stockton, an inland port city of roughly 290,000 people in the California Central Valley. A rash of summer murders had just raised the city’s total homicide count to 33. Five months later, that number has doubled. It’s Stockton’s most violent year on record.

The city is broke for reasons that are too many to count. California recently topped RealtyTrac’s list of the nation’s highest foreclosure rates and Stockton took the state’s top spot with one in 38 homes in foreclosure.

Stockton was named by Forbes last year as America’s #1 Most Miserable City.

Throughout it all Stockton has had time to simmer in the clouded broth of its reputation.

Two years ago when I first began walking around downtown and the outer residential areas, people would ask, “What’s with the camera?” I would explain my interest in documenting daily life and, more often than not, I’d get a smile and a few kind remarks. Occasionally, I’d get a puzzled frown, a look of dismissal, or an angry remark about privacy.

Today, when the same question is asked, I feel I must defend my desire to photograph the city and its people. Hearing Stockton’s own residents say things like “Why would you want to take pictures of this place?” or “Hoping to catch a murder in action?” is always troubling. It’s assumed that I am out to perpetuate the headlines—to capture the worst in the worst place to live.

There’s this passive acceptance of the terms used to describe Stockton—a mash-up of “most miserable,” “America’s worst,” and “eventual ghost town” that comes bursting onto the screen after a Google search of the city. These words are tossed around with such frequency, are uttered with such lack of surprise that they’ve become the truth. They reflect what the city expects of itself.

If there is pride in Stockton, it’s been buried beneath damning statistics. If there is hope in Stockton, it’s been stifled by toxic, contagious apathy. Things can change, but people have to want them to.

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Brandon Getty lives and works in his hometown of Stockton, California. More of this work can be found at Maps to Stockton Holmes on Tumblr, Shooting Daggers or on his Carbonmade Portfolio.

Maps to Stockton Holmes is a photo-documentary series of residential and urban space in Stockton. Years in the future, Brandon hopes that “Maps” will describe Stockton during a brief phase—however painful and challenging—in its progression as a city.