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Everyone Had Cameras: Photography and Farmworkers in California, 1850-2000 Paperback – October 16, 2008

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Book Description

American photographers have been fascinated by the lives of California farmworkers since the time of the daguerreotype. From the earliest Gold Rush–era images and the documentary photographs taken during the Great Depression to digital images today, photographers and farmworkers in California have had a complicated and continuously changing bond. In Everyone Had Cameras, Richard Steven Street provides a comprehensive history of the significant presence of California farmworkers in the visual culture of America.

Street’s account spans 150 years and sheds a new perspective on some of America’s photographic masters, such as Carleton E. Watkins, Ansel Adams, and Dorothea Lange, and brings to light heretofore unknown and unheralded work by perceptive amateurs, socially committed journeymen, digital documentarians, commercial propagandists, and left-wing critics. Through their artistry, these figures powerfully revealed—and at times obscured—the human cost of industrial agriculture and cheap food. Photographers are deeply embedded in the farmworker story, Street shows, and it cannot be understood without paying attention to their ever-evolving vision. Indeed, cameras are so prevalent on picket lines and at strikes and demonstrations that it is normal to see not only photojournalists but also police, protesters, and growers awaiting a decisive—or incriminating—moment to capture.

Deftly weaving the remarkable diversity of field photography into this story of labor activism, Everyone Had Cameras establishes a new history of California photography while chronicling the impact that this visual medium—called by some the common currency of modern dialogue—has had on a vast, dispossessed class of American workers.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press; First edition, first printing (full number line) edition (October 16, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816649677
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816649679
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.7 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #655,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By LeRoy Chatfield on November 18, 2008
Format: Paperback
Richard Steven Street documents the history of Cesar Chavez and his farmworker movement 1962-1993 through the camera lenses of photographers - a meticulous and amazing achievement! The author not only explains the background, the craft and the personal hardships endured by these free lancers, but also their many-times-fruitless efforts to publish and exhibit their work. Dr. Street demonstrates to his readers how these photographers made a significant visual contribution to the movement by putting a public face on the plight of farmworkers.

As an eyewitness/participant for the first decade of that movement (1963-1973), I met dozens of free lance photographers who came to Delano to shoot "La Causa" - George Ballis, John Kouns, Jon Lewis, Nick Jones, Bob Fitch, Ruben Montoya, Hub Segur, Rick Tejada-Flores, Gayanne Fietinghoff, Glen Pearcy and many more - all working on a financial shoestring and all dependent upon the hospitality of farmworkers to meet their daily needs. I marveled at their dedication and hard work, and their ability to provide prints (frequently overnight) under the most difficult and chaotic living conditions imaginable. Some were more gifted than others, but every photo documented the struggle for social justice.

Now many years later, as a Website publisher ([...]) of primary source documents about Cesar Chavez and his farmworker movement, I am very much indebted to "Everyone Had Cameras," Richard Steven Street's well-documented and easy-to-read book, especially because visitors to the Website who comb through the 9,000+ movement photos exhibited there will have a better understanding of their historical context and the conditions under which they were created.

Whether a few chapters only, or the entire book, readers of "Everyone Had Cameras" will not be disappointed. I salute Dr.Street's take on history!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dolores Flamiano on December 10, 2008
Format: Paperback
Everyone Had Cameras: Photography and Farmworkers in California, 1850-2000 is essential reading for everyone who cares about photography history, California history, labor history, or the relationship between photography and social change. This book documents the epic, heartbreaking, and untold story of California farmworkers. It also reveals the crucial role that photography played in their struggles to live, work, and be seen as human beings. Historian and photographer Richard Steven Street writes with a rare blend of eloquence, accessibility, integrity, and uncompromising scholarship. Although I was intimidated at first by the book's sheer heft (700-plus pages), I soon found myself mesmerized and moved by the human stories and faces behind the key events of farmworker history, including the Lodi grape strike and Salinas lettuce strike of the 1930s and the emergence of César Chávez and the United Farm Workers in the 1960s.

Street's masterful storytelling is matched by his carefully selected photographs (I counted 138) and pre-photographic images, including pen and ink drawings, oil paintings, and murals. The photography is a revelation; some images shock with inhuman brutality, while others inspire with powerful solidarity. Street includes the work of Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams, alongside that of more obscure photographers such as Otto Hagel, Hansel Mieth, and Max Yavno. The book traces the evolution of farmworker photography from romanticized, turn-of-the-century portraits to startlingly candid photojournalism of strikers and vigilantes during the 1930s cotton and lettuce strikes to a suppressed and heart-wrenching 1996 image of Felipe Franco, a young boy born without legs or arms because of his mother's exposure to pesticides.
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