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The New Forty-Niners — Photographs by Sarina Finkelstein of Modern Day Gold Prospectors

The New Forty Niners Photographs by Sarina Finkelstein of Modern Day Gold Prospectors Esquire


In the California wilderness, both north and south of the famous Sutter’s Mill, there are adventurers and abandoners, novices and lifers, recession victims and nostalgists, Missourians and Welshmen, all bonded by the pursuit and glory of a glint of metal hidden in the dirt—gold.For four years, photographer Sarina Finkelstein sought them out. Some were wary of being misunderstood as homeless (“I don’t need to do this, I want to do it,” one told her), while another of her subjects recounted suffering through near-hypothermia one night, having come back from a day of prospecting to find that his wallet, his tent, his sleeping bags—everything—had been stolen, and how he was “mining for [his] food.”Finkelstein stayed with them from 2009 into 2013, as the price of gold climbed, peaked, and plateaued. Since, though, its value has precipitously dropped. An ounce is worth $1,300 today—$500 less than it did just a couple years ago. But still, Finkelstein says, these gold hunters remain out there, looking. 

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Wow, people are STILL mining for gold?!

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