"So, you know, a lot of what I just told you is true...

if there is anything that is truth."

-Shaun Griffin, Virginia City, Nevada, excerpt from Tailings

Created by Cebe Loomis

June 2018

Self-published book, 183 pages
Exhibition video featuring analogue photographs and place-based soundscape, runtime 09:22 minutes

Click here to purchase the book, Tailings.


noun tail·ing \ˈtā-liŋ\
1. The material that remains after minerals have been extracted from an ore by ore dressing.

Along an amber dusted highway in Nevada sits Virginia City, a timeworn mining town clinging to a mile-high mountain peak. This boomtown was home to the Comstock Lode of 1859, the United States’ first major silver ore discovery, and today is the nation’s second-largest national historic landmark, offering an “authentic” 1860s experience that mythologizes histories of the American West. Tailings uses analogue photography (35mm & 120mm), sound art, and personal testimony to unpack how Virginia City’s custom of storytelling and demonstrative celebration of its Western folklore affect how place and identity are rendered, remembered, and endlessly remade.

"What we have done here is focused in on what the public’s preconceived ideas of the West are and also enhanced the things that people have heard about and people that people have heard about, like Mark Twain, like Julie Bulette, like the Bonanza kings, that sort of thing. And that's pretty typical of what you see in history, especially in an environment that is driven by a tourist economy."

-Bert Bedeau, Virginia City, Nevada, excerpt from Tailings

Exhibition video featuring experiential sound montage (Del Mar Theater, Santa Cruz, CA, June 2018)

Virginia City is also called by another name, the Comstock. Home to the Comstock Lode of 1859, Virginia City’s mining history is renowned and complex; tangible fragments of this history can be found scattered throughout the town. Some of these fragments are called tailings—the organic waste materials that remain after the valuable minerals have been extracted from an ore. This detritus continues to litter the landscapes of placer and hard rock mining towns across the United States. Although these rises of earth can be immense in size, their fillings are most often perceived as the redundant, the forgotten and the unobserved. These ruptured insides are the reason I returned to Virginia City. Seemingly lost in time, Virginia City works to reveal its “tailings” everyday—sometimes in large chunks or small pieces, in raspy fragmentation or embellished banter at a local saloon.

"Carson City, Virginia City...[My parents] left Virginia City in 1895, I think. There was nothing there—depression. The miners had nothing. Practically nothing. Wiped the whole town out. No more. I think they went to Virginia City before the Civil War. They came from China and went first to Virginia City."

-Yuen Kee, recorded 1989, courtesy of Shirlaine Kee Baldwin, excerpt from Tailings

"In such a wide-open environment, if you’re from a city, all you hear is noise and there are tall buildings and no visual horizon. That’s comforting to some but when you’re in this environment it’s disconcerting to someone from the city. I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve had that come from the East and the first thing they say is, 'I just can’t be in this environment. I can’t be in this much open space. I feel too vulnerable.' And those things impact our framing of the world, how we see it, what we do in it, why we do what we do, and our ability to view it as beauty."

-Shaun Griffin, Virginia City, Nevada, excerpt from Tailings

Using Format