A dose of reality was handed out to the University of La Verne community Wednesday evening.
David Bacon’s photography exhibit “Farm Workers” reception at the Irene Carlson Gallery exposed the difficult conditions faced by most immigrant farm workers.
“The photos are a reality check,” Bacon said. “Food doesn’t automatically appear on the Safeway shelves.”
The ULV students that filled the exhibit were affected by the extraordinary images shot by Bacon.
“The pictures are beautiful,” said Spencer Contreras, a freshman with an undeclared major. “They show the aspects of hard work.”
Bacon wanted to provide the truth behind a subject very few individuals understand and even fewer can appreciate. Immigrant farm workers spend very long days working in the fields for typically low pay and most farm jobs require a skilled worker.
The image of the woman on top of the broccoli machine shot in Chualar, Calif. shows her cutting the vegetable to more appetizing sizes for consumers. An individual must be skilled with a cutting knife and fast in order to keep their job, Bacon said.
Bacon has been shooting on his “Farmer Workers” project for many years and has traveled to many places in California to document the life of immigrant farmer workers.
“I wanted to document the working life of working people,” Bacon said.
The ULV staff and students provided great behind the scenes support to help make sure the event was a success. Gary Colby, professor of photography, and Kevin Bowman, photography department manager, were the key staff members that brought the exhibit to life.
Colby selected the artist, while Bowman focused on printing the images that Colby and Bacon specifically handpicked for the exhibit.
“Some of these images break the stereotype of a farm worker,” Bowman said.
The images not only focus on the typical male Mexican farm workers, but they also touch on India immigrant and female laborers.
They capture men and women working side-by-side doing the same very physically demanding jobs.
Bacon has emotionally reached the students are ULV. He has stirred inside them a desire to learn and become aware of the difficult life situations.
“It makes me feel like there is a lot going on that I’m not aware of,” said Grady Thomas, junior communications major. “I need to be more aware of what’s happening.”
Thomas and fellow communications major Pui Lok Choi helped promote Bacon’s exhibit as a school project.
Their efforts brought a crowd of students that were wowed by the exhibit and they had a chance to tell Bacon how much they appreciated his work.
Bacon has been a photographer for about 20 years and developed his desire to document life’s struggles while growing up in Oakland and New York. In the 1970s, he learned and watched the African American boycotts that were taking place.
As an adult, Bacon became a union leader and began to see the injustices that immigrants were facing in the labor world.
His passion and desire to document the hardships eventually became full-time work for the union organizers turned artist.
“We are all here to work,” Bacon said. “That’s what we have in common no matter the race or work you do.”
For more information on Bacon visit his website, dbacon.igc.org.
Rachel Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.