Financial delays – nine months become nine weeks to build the project. So, rather than traveling together, I head to Visalia to photograph the community as Duane begins welding in Ohio. Interesting note: it is over 100 degrees in both locations. Best to get started early – while I rise at 4:30 to meet with fieldworkers, Duane’s days in the studio also make use of pre-dawn temperatures.

I am picked up by Joan, an eager to help worker trainer from Family Services of Tulare County, who kindly drives me out to grape and pepper fields to meet workers before the heat of the day. Canals reflect the violets and blues from the early morning sky.  Kern Friant Water District operate the canals. Siphoning is another important water source the requires much physical effort in order to get the ground water to the topsoil. Obviously, water consumption is a controversial subject here that often comes up.

Upon arrival we are greeted by Sergio, whose makes sure the workers get to their locations and have shade tents and drinking water. Workers are getting started building supports for grape vines as green sprigs are just beginning to peek through the surface of the soil. Next, a visit with a group of young men piece working. They were racing with the clock driving metal stakes into the recently tilled soil.

Joan gifts scarves to the workers which provide much needed protection from sun and dust. I feel uneasy holding my expensive camera while photographing the workers and at the same time I understand that this is the reality of food production that I am confronting. I am met with kindness and graciousness but also by a question “Will she pay us for our picture so we can be rich like her?” This question continues to haunt me throughout the trip. Of course what is not known by the individual asking, the budget for the project is only covering the material costs. One would be blind to not recognize that I have more privileges than they and yet the question of how to negotiate inequities is one that there is no easy answer for. What I do know is that each of us is an equally precious individual.


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