about the project
I photographed my first grape harvest in 2011 while on assignment for the San Francisco Chronicle; a pre-dawn pick in the small town of Philo, California. It was chaotic. I struggled to keep pace with workers furiously picking grape clusters and tossing them into plastic bins that they kicked between their feet. A fog of choking carbon monoxide floated through the vineyards from truck engines and loud generators that powered huge lights that lit up the vineyards like a baseball field. Though it was a blur, that night stuck with me and I wanted to see those faces.
HARVESTER was inspired by that chaotic experience. In 2015, motivated by a recent wave of anti-immigration rhetoric in America, I decided to create a series of portraits of harvest workers that focused on the face. Three years have passed since meeting and photographing over a hundred individuals who travel great distances, in this case all from Mexico, to toil at this labor-intensive job.
The process is simple. I arrive near the end of the harvest workers' day and spend some time with a crew as they pick grapes. I listen to the conversations muffled by the thick leaves, their laughter, songs sung in Spanish, but mostly I marvel at the energy and speed of the work. For those that agree to be photographed, they each sit for a brief portrait at the end of their picking day. The workers then hop into their dust-covered vehicles and are gone.
HARVESTER is a purely visual story with each face its own personal narrative. When standing before these larger than life portraits, their eyes looking directly into the viewers' eyes, the intimacy that develops between the subject and the viewer removes the distance created by labels such as "immigrant" and "laborer," and what remains is a connection with a fellow human being.