I spent time yesterday looking at Barron Bixler’s photographs of agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley. He’s arranged his photos into a beautiful slideshow set to music called A New Pastoral: Views of the San Joaquin Valley. I’ve formed my own vision of the San Joaquin Valley over the last few years, and it’s fascinating to see how someone else views and presents the region. Some of Bixler’s photos depict scences familiar to me – stark landscapes of row-crops, orchards with factories in the background, agricultural machinery, railroads and storage facilities. I loved seeing these familiar places through his eye. Others show places I’ve never been, like the inside of an industrial milking facility.
Bixler’s photos are entirely devoid of people – they depict industrial agriculture through the landscape and built environment it creates. Matt Black’s photos, on the other hand, center on the immigrants and farmworkers living and working in the San Joaquin Valley. They are entirely human. I enjoyed checking his captions to see if the small towns he has depicted were places I’ve spent time in too (mostly not). He has also created a powerful digital project about the birth defects in Kettleman City.
Finally, Ken Light’s new photographic book, Valley of Shadows and Dreams, will be published soon by Heyday Press. I saw some of his work on this project when I took his documentary photography class several years ago at UC Berkeley, and can’t wait to see the finished product. Check out the photo on the book’s cover, it’s gorgeous.
And, here’s a link to my own humble efforts to photograph the San Joaquin Valley. I try to show the grave environmental health problems facing this region, but also the hard work being done by its residents to change things. I also try to convey my sense of this under-appreciated part of our state as beautiful in its own right. An updated version of this collection will be online soon, as well as a nifty new collage that combines new photos with oral history.