Photographing Farmworkers in California

Photographing Farmworkers in California

by Richard Steven Street


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As exploited and colonized people, California farmworkers have attracted such massive, overwhelming photographic scrutiny that today their story cannot be told, studied, or understood without engaging the photographic dimension. Although the work of Dorothea Lange and other photographers from the 1930s often comes to mind, virtually every photographer of consequence at some time, for some reason, photographed in the fields of the Golden State. This includes such unlikely twentieth-century artists as fashion photographer Richard Avedon and commercial photographer Max Yavno, along with the nineteenth-century masters Carleton E. Watkins and Eadweard Muybridge. Their work, however, does not unfold along neat, predictable lines. While it has both obscured the place of field hands in modern agriculture and made a case against the farm labor system as an instrument of poverty and oppression, the best of these photographs goes far beyond advertising and exposé, cutting through layers of ignorance and indifference and raising difficult moral questions that force us to reflect on the extent to which, as a society, we require the subservience of an entire class of people. This volume presents 282 of these important photographs.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780804740920
Publisher: Stanford University Press
Publication date: 06/15/2004
Edition description: 1
Pages: 360
Product dimensions: 9.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Richard Steven Street is an independent scholar and writer. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Visiting Professor and Fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center, Dr. Street has been an award-winning photographer, historian, and journalist specializing in California agriculture and agricultural labor. He is the author of Beasts of the Field: A Narrative History of California Farmworkers, 1769-1913 (Stanford, 2004), and he is currently finishing a multivolume history of California farmworkers.

Table of Contents

1.From Sketch Artists to Lensmen1
2.From Dry Plates to Halftones26
3.Postcards, Riots, Citrus, and Mexicans52
4.Documentary Origins78
5.Paul Taylor and Dorothea Lange102
6.Government Photographer, American Icon, and Blood on the Lettuce124
7.Facts Behind Fiction and Food for Victory148
8.The Decline and Fall of Documentary Photography172
9.Harvest of Shame196
10.The Delano Grape Strike and Boycott216
11.The Struggle to Organize Farmworkers238
12.Violence, Art, and Justice258
13.Funerals, Pesticides, and Undocumented Workers282
Index of Photographers327

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