/24 Road

Daniel Cheek

Benicia/Martinez, California

My photographs of Benicia and Martinez, California document the intersection of suburbia with the effects of major industry. The two San Francisco Bay Area cities of Benicia and Martinez, California lie on either side of the Carquinez strait, a major water thoroughfare connecting the Sacramento River to the San Francisco Bay. In such a prime location resort-style family oriented neighborhoods flourished alongside major industrial plants. Today Martinez is the home of two major oil refineries, three chemical plants, and several hazardous waste dumps. Benicia, just across the strait, is the home of a major oil refinery, a chemical plant and the site of a de-accessioned military base, which today is a major industrial park. The area is not all industry though; there are several regional shoreline parks with miles of hiking, quaint downtown areas with antique shops and restaurants, and beautiful city parks. The towns themselves are bucolic and comparatively affordable compared to other cities in the San Francisco Bay area. My photographs explore the dichotomy residents must confront in choosing to live in places like these. The small-town friendly neighborhood feeling is overwhelming when in Benicia and Martinez, yet in the background it is impossible to ignore the sounds of the refineries and the smell of petroleum in the air.