California has a blinding kind of light. Los Angeles winters look like Los Angeles summers, and the endless vitamin D reaches down your throat and suntans your insides. Katy Grannan's series The Westerns captures this crippling, inescapable sunshine and the people who try to form an identity beneath its beating blasts. I love the way her impetus is defined in the press release from The Photographers' Gallery: "...colour portraits of individuals living on the west coast of America who endeavor to define themselves under the scrutiny of a relentless Pacific sunlight." Yes. A strange urgency brought me to this exhibition tonight. There was a bitter cold. An afternoon terror twilight. I was sitting on a train back from Chertsey, milk cows frowning at us from the fields. And something said "get back to London now. You need to see these photographs." I have been looking at Grannan's work a lot lately, mostly in piecing together ideas for my dissertation. Her work is insistent and forceful, light-handed and true. It was wonderful to see The Westerns at the new Photographers' Gallery. The work was emphasized by the smell of fresh paint. Yes. The walls were damp with primer, a blinding California newness white. And the hang is perfect: two narratives split in the middle with a center divide. The first half of the show features Grannan's photographs of Dale and Gail, middle-aged transsexuals who are best friends in matching leopard print caftans. The second series depicts Nicole, a young mother, who looks violently different in every frame. One moment she's a sex kitten in a leotard, writhing on the ground of a sun-drenched parking lot. The next photograph shows her as a lonely and distant young mother, sitting on the bed wearing nothing but a bathrobe and plimsoles. All of Grannan's subjects suffer from the brightest, least relenting malaise. These people are mercurial and sunburned, weakened by endless beaches and year-long summers. The exhibition is infinitely moving, and is well worth repeat visits. See Katy Grannan's The Westerns at The Photographers' Gallery: through February 8, 2009. The Photographers' Gallery, 16-18 Ramillies Street, London W1F 7LW (Tube: Oxford Circus)