'Grassland': 23 Photos of California's Lost Coast Weed Pioneers
Grassland is a 112-page photography book published in 2014 by Kehrer Verlag. The hardcover edition includes at least 75 full-color illustration pages, and the entire volume is imbued with a dank, dark green.
A few hours north of San Francisco, along the coast, lies a rugged landscape of towering Redwoods and Douglas Firs. Cut with rivers and fog, it is iconic American terrain, which draws countless RV-towing tourists who wind up and down logging roads all summer long.
But beneath this layer of green and golden splendor, there exists an unseen world that no maps can find, only a discriminating eye for unmarked dirt roads. To the initiated, there are signs, as clear as the highway billboards offering hydroponic paraphernalia, medical cannabis consultations, trimming solutions and turkey bags in bulk. These services are welcome flags to cannabis country, where droves of marijuana growers, both indoor and outdoor, hide in the hills and make their living.
Pseudonymous photographer H. Lee tooks those unmarked roads through the Northern California underbrush and chronicled a working year in the Emerald Triangle. These 23 shots, excerpted from Grassland, were taken in 2010. Their timeless stillness captures an of-the-moment clandestine culture that reflects the working pride seen in portraits of prohibition-era moonshiners—reflecting a time before boutique strains, when grass was just grass.
Like those moonshiners of yore, time—moving forward at the pace of regulation, corporate investment, and industrialization—may be closing in on Northern California's farmers. Grassland's photos help us honor these pioneers while they are still here, and will be reminders to cherish them once they have gone.