Gorgeous Photos from a Forgotten Side of California
Travel

Gorgeous Photos from a Forgotten Side of California

Though it has suffered a run of bad luck, declaring bankruptcy in 2008, Vallejo is eclectic and diverse. Carolyn Drake's photos capture a city reminiscent of an older California, one before the tech boom.
August 17, 2016, 12:00am

Ramon waits for his food at Nation's Giant Hamburgers.

This story appeared in the August issue of VICE magazine. Click HERE to subscribe.

Vallejo, a city of about 115,000 people in the San Francisco Bay Area, was, in 1852 and 1853, the state capital of California. For most of the 20th century, it thrived as an industrial city, supported by a naval shipyard on Mare Island. But in 1996, the shipyard, which had driven Vallejo's economy for more than a hundred years, shut down. In 2008, the city declared bankruptcy. People lost jobs, houses were vacated, and crime increased at a time when, in other parts of the Bay Area, Silicon Valley–fueled gentrification ran rampant. Since then, no major industry has taken the place of the closed shipyard, and work remains scarce. Though it has suffered a run of bad luck, Vallejo is eclectic and diverse in a way reminiscent of an older California, one before the tech boom. In 2016, photographer Carolyn Drake moved to the city and began to take pictures there.

A homeless volunteer returns carts from the parking lot at the 99-cent store on Sonoma Blvd.

Rachel, whose mother, Cynndie, used to work on the local ferry, practices karate in her backyard.

Mike poses on Arkansas St., near Sonoma Blvd.

José, who goes by “Bonez,” fixes a car in the parking lot of an Autozone.

Cynndie sits in her backyard in St. Vincent’s Hill in Vallejo.