"But food is not just a conversational common denominator like the weather is in Britain. The subject, sometimes passionately debated, represents a personal philosophy of life." --Kinta Beevor

Friday, September 17, 2010

Food For Thought

      Some vegans take a high moral ground saying that, since they eat vegetables, they sleep better at night because they avoid the cruelty and suffering associated with the meat, dairy, fish, and poultry industries.   I don't think store bought vegetables are guilt-free eating.  I recognize the realities of migrant workers who pick most of the produce we eat. I'm not saying it's all bad, but there is plenty of poverty and human suffering in this industry. Just saying, I'm grateful for the food I eat and appreciate the labor involved in producing it. The following article from Eye witness to history.com includes  Dorthea Lange's account of the day she took this photo of a widowed migrant mother.

In 1960, Lange described her experience in an interview with the magazine Popular Photography. The photos that accompany the following account are captioned with Lange's field notes: "It was raining, the camera bags were packed, and I had on the seat beside me in the car the results of my long trip, the box

"Nipomo, Calif. March 1936.
Migrant agricultural worker's family.
Seven hungry children and their
mother,aged 32. The father
is a native Californian."
containing all those rolls and packs of exposed film ready to mail back to Washington. It was a time of relief. Sixty-five miles an hour for seven hours would get me home to my family that night, and my eyes were glued to the wet and gleaming highway that stretched out ahead. I felt freed, for I could lift my mind off my job and think of home.
I was on my way and barely saw a crude sign with pointing arrow which flashed by at the side of the road, saying PEA-PICKERS CAMP. But out of the corner of my eye I did see it I didn't want to stop, and didn't. I didn't want to remember that I had seen it, so I drove on and ignored the summons. Then, accompanied by the rhythmic hum of the windshield wipers, arose an inner argument:
Dorothea, how about that camp back there? What is the situation back there?
Are you going back?
Nobody could ask this of you, now could they?
To turn back certainly is not necessary. Haven't you plenty if negatives already on this subject? Isn't this just one more if the same? Besides, if you take a camera out in this rain, you're just asking for trouble. Now be reasonable, etc. etc., etc.
Having well convinced myself for 20 miles that I could continue on, I did the opposite. Almost without realizing what I was doing I made a U-turn on the empty highway. I went back those 20 miles and turned off the highway at that sign, PEA-PICKERS CAMP.

"Destitute in a pea pickers camp,
because of the failure of the early
pea crop. These people had just sold
their tent in order to buy food."
I was following instinct, not reason; I drove into that wet and soggy camp and parked my car like a homing pigeon. I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was 32. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it.
The pea crop at Nipomo had frozen and there was no work for anybody. But I did not approach the tents and shelters of other stranded pea-pickers. It was not necessary; I knew I had recorded the essence of my assignment."
   Lange, Dorothea, "The Assignment I'll Never Forget: Migrant Mother," Popular Photography (February 1960); Curtis, James. Mind's Eye, Mind's Truth: FSA Photography Reconsidered. (1989).

1 comment:

  1. Hi My partner just sent me this link as I am a photographer. One of my heroes is Lange and her life story is truly, for me, inspirational I have this photo on my desk. It's a postcard i bought in a gallery in the US years ago. ?Great insight in her work and compassion. I love how she was going on instinct not reason. It's how we best connect with the world. This image is a true "madonna" if yo uknow what i mean. thank you for the post. We are vegetarians, not yet vegans, but all things in their own time. And i am with you on the high ground thing. we never take that stance We actually never judge (well as best as we can being human lol) meat eaters or anyone else. People need to survive and it is as simple as that. thank you again!