Photography Exhibits

Field Work
Photographs by

Institute of Industrial Relations Gallery, UC Berkeley 1/21/2003-7/15/2003

click on photos for larger view and full caption

04_001 Border
2001, 1999

Half the nation's vegetables and fruits are grown in California, including 85% of the strawberries and 95% of the tomatoes in processed foods.

04_002 Lettuce
2002, 2001

Minimum wage: US$6.75/hour
Romaine Lettuce in market: US$1.39/head
Caesar salad in restaurant: US$7.50.

Legend has it the Caesar was created in 1924 by Italian chef Caesar Cardini at a restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico.

04_003 Garlic
2000, 2002

California garlic workers get about $8/hour on piece rate. Wholesale, California garlic is $38-$40 for a 30 pound carton.

The California garlic industry is at a crossroads due to global economic changes, soil depletion and high land costs.

04_004 Asparagus
2002, 2001

California outlawed the short handled hoe years ago, but not during harvesting.

Asparagus in market: US$3.89/pound,
wage for CA. picker: US$6.75/hour

04_005 Garage family
2002, 1997

According to the California Institute For Rural Studies, there is a substantial labor surplus in CA. agriculture with a related decline in wage rates and a larger drop in annual income.

Most farm workers are young, averaging 6 years of formal education. They earn about $6500/year, and use few government services. Forty percent are migrants rather than year- round employees.

04_006 Homeless
2002, 1992

For more than a decade farmworkers' real income has fallen. Employers have stopped providing housing and transportation either as benefits or at reduced rates. Increasingly workers camp in the fields, live in cars and homeless shelters or in groups renting a motel room, apartment or home.

04_007 Pistachios
1999, 2002

California's current pistachio acreage totals 101,500 acres with 78,000 bearing acres and 23,500 non-bearing. Estimated 2002 harvest 280 million pounds.

About 50% of the California pistachio crop is exported, mostly to China, Japan, Europe and Canada.

Pistachios in market: US$2.99/pound
Wage for CA. picker: US$6.75/hour

04_008 Pomegranates

Brought to the New World by Spanish missionaries after Cortez conquered Mexico in 1521, the pomegranate went north with the missionaries as they searched for new converts.

Long a religious and artistic symbol, the pomegranate symbolizes fertility, death and eternity.

Fresno, CA. Pomegranate picker.
Average production: 5 to 6 tons per acre.

04_009R Cotton
1999, 2002

From a study by International Cotton Advisory Committee: U.S. cotton farmers received subsidies worth $2.1 billion in 2001. The subsidies allow U.S. growers a worldwide price advantage depressing prices to a 30 year old low of 42 cents/pound, halving the incomes of many developing country's producers.

From Wall Street Journal, 26 June, 2002:
"U.S. aid to Mali for social programs: $40 million/year. Cotton is nearly 1/2 the country's export revenue and faces a $30 million deficit this year with a 10% reduction in income to Mali cotton farmers."

All photos copyright 2003 Robert Gumpert

Field Work
Photographs by

"Field Work" is one of a series of projects that hopefully raise questions in the viewer's mind about relationships in the world we live in. In this case the subject is agriculture and those that work the fields. All the images are from California, where half of the nation's vegetables and fruits are grown, including 85% of the strawberries and 95% of the tomatoes used in processed foods. The photo/text panels illustrate the harvesting of specialty crops such as asparagus, romaine lettuce, pomegranates, garlic, and cotton, and together tell the story of the political economy of agriculture and of the field workers that form the labor backbone of this industry with falling wages and increased corporate subsidies.

Robert Gumpert is a freelance documentary photographer living in the bay area. He started his career in Harlan County, Kentucky, in 1974, documenting what turned out to be the last three months of the epic United Mineworker's strike. These photos resulted in a 1976 exhibit and catalog in Los Angeles, "Harlan County Kentucky: A Photo-Documentation," and many are part of the Coal Employment Project Records Appalachian Archives in East Tennessee State University. He continues to photograph social and economic subjects. Recent projects include "Faces Behind the Labels," a traveling exhibit of garment workers mounted by Oakland's Sweatshop Watch during 1998 and 1999, "Lost Promise: The Criminal Justice System," and an ongoing study of the health care system. His photos have been used in outreach media by U.C.'s Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, and he is currently a photographer under contract with the California Department of Industrial Relations (see "Meet California's Division of Apprenticeship Standards Apprentices 1999")

P.O. Box 77132, San Francisco, CA 94107, (415) 821-2091

This is the fourth in a series of photo exhibits sponsored by the Institute of Industrial Relations Library.

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