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Bob Zahn - F Apache
Bob Zahn - P Speed Limit

Bob Zahn

Calipatria, CA



‘American Gothic II’ subtitle ‘Slab City: The Last Free Olace in America,” A portrait collection of the people, place, culture and ethos of Slab City, often referred to as ‘the last free place in America.’

The ‘Last free place in America’ has often been used to describe Slab City. It applies because there is no rent and there are no laws. That makes for a truly unique American place. But freedom always has a cost, and in Slab City the price is steep. Located 126′ below sea level in the Colorado desert of southeast California, Slab City is off-the-grid — what you bring in is all you’ve got. Only 150 Slabbers live year-round. Many are unemployed, retired or disabled. Others just want to be left alone. Living conditions are on the edge of survivability: there is no AC electricity – solar panels provide a
minimum of power to get by; there is no running water – it all has to be trucked in; and for sewage treatment, think outhouses; summer temperatures can reach 120°F; rainfall average is 3.23” per year; there are sandstorms, rattlesnakes, tarantulas and yes, there are earthquakes. In actually, Slab City today may be as close to a post apocalyptic rural American life as you’ll see — hence the title ’American Gothic II,’ a take on Grant Wood’s iconic 1930 American painting that idealized rural American life of that bygone era. From late Fall through early Spring the population swells to over 3,000 with
‘seasonal’ Slabbers who return for the lifestyle, ‘snow birds’ avoiding the the colder climes at home, ‘transients’ just passin’ through, ATV bikers, day trippers and touristas. While there’s a real sense of community with Slabbers — they’re all in it together and do watch each others backs — with the tide of people the Slabs take on the feel of a city: every morning there’s coffee at the the Oasis Cafe (membership $25 per season); the Internet Cafe (it’s free, donations gladly accepted); the Library; Slabacitta Cinema (bring your own chair); the all natural Hot Springs (clothing optional); Cold
Wash; Sculpture Garden in East Jesus; and the main weekly event, ’Open Mic’ every Saturday night at The Range. Most portraits are accompanied with a quote by the person in
frame describing their thoughts on life in Slab City. Some can be inane while others are particularly astute, defying how our world differs from their own. In this way they’re telling the story of Slab City while the camera captures their images, sometimes their spirits, flowing through the lens. In moving from New York City, a megalopolis of skyscrapers, superhighways and the uber rich 2,830 miles across a continent, I found the change rewarded in small things. There’s a two lane road through Slab City, you can see the stars at night, for the most part the people are real, honest, and here I am known as ‘Photo Bob.’ Welcome to ‘Slab City: the Last Free Place in America,’ home of ‘American Gothic II.’