Charlie Hailey


On his book Slab City: Dispatches from the Last Free Place

Cover Interview of July 10, 2019


Slab City is a field guide to a remote, transitory place. A folded map in the back pocket shows the layout and inventory of the military camp’s 1946 facilities. We carried that map each day we walked among the slabs. It helps locate the sixty-five slabs that have remained after the camp was decommissioned and its structures were removed. Like the slabs, the map is also a substrate for coming to terms with this place, for understanding how Slab City’s residents endure the difficulties of desert life and the frequent challenges to its public status. To pour concrete on sand is to test permanence in a mutable place. To live in Slab City is to experiment with the idea of freedom in a vestige of frontier space. And to write about and to photograph Slab City’s structures is to narrate an ongoing struggle between autonomy, necessity and control.