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Sharim’s New Photo Essay Reveals Night in Merced County

June 23, 2023
An image of night in the Valley from Sharim's photo essay.

Global Arts Studies Professor Yehuda Sharim has published a new photo essay, “A Map of Light,” on the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI)’s digital platform Foundry.

This is the second piece Sharim has published on the collective platform. While “A Map of Light” is a tale of and a quest for the emergence of light in rural California, “Central Valley Portraits” is an observation of the grain and pulse of California’s Central Valley.

UCHRI facilitates experimental, interdisciplinary humanities scholarship through partnerships, research initiatives and competitive grants.

Sharim said “A Map of Light” started with the night and the dominance of darkness in different parts of Merced County and the Central Valley.

“The night in relation to Merced and the Valley is a time that reveals inequities, including social and racial disparities as they manifest in space, unlit streets. What is it that we, as a society, prefer not to see? Who is it that we prefer to ignore?” he said. “Why do streets in South Merced remain unlit throughout the night while prisons, like commercial signs, are lit throughout the night?

“Moreover, what is the relationship between light and deception? Is the light another way to distract us from ourselves? Each other? And when the light goes off and we are forced to stand still — without checking our emails 200 times an hour — the night is that ‘sweet hour,’ like in many sacred texts, where we see ourselves — our unmasked and naked selves.

“’A Map of Light’ invites us to remain with the darkness, while at the same time, it reminds one of the mysterious and unexpected spaces in the Valley.

“Here, the night reveals. Illuminates. It invites us to embrace impermanence.”