MIDNIGHT, Fiesta Club, Tulare, California, 2007
"If you look behind the fantasy of the California Dream, so carefully crafted, you will see there are shadows too. The Great Central Valley has provided the dream for many, but it is deeply shadowed." –Melanie Light
ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
Documenting a region known for its agricultural plenty, Valley of Shadows and Dreams presents, in words and images, the harsh truths of farm workers’ daily experiences, while taking a sustained look at the impact of politics, environmental and water issues, and rampant, often ill-considered residential development. Ken and Melanie Light embarked on a five-year photographic journey to examine the legacy and contradictions of agricultural plenty in the United States. These photos and stories capture scenes of hardworking people fighting to preserve their livelihoods and traditions.
California’s Central Valley runs from Sacramento almost to Los Angeles and covers an area roughly the size of Tennessee. Starting in the 1930’s it has been the home of agriculture on a massive scale and of what we now all call “agribusiness.” There are more than 80,000 farms which produce in excess $36 billion annually, which is 11.2 percent of total US farm revenue. Nearly half of the fruits, nuts, and vegetables produced in the US are grown there. This scale of farming requires two things: water, and a large labor force. In 2009, about 1.6 million migrant, mostly undocumented and seasonal farm workers planted, grew, and picked these crops. More than half of the residents live below the official poverty line. In recent years, developers have begun converting thousands of acres to residential development. Between 2000 and 2006, more than a quarter of the Central Valley’s farmland was converted to “urban use.”
Ken Light is a social documentary photographer and educator whose work has appeared in books, magazines and exhibitions for over three decades. He is also the author of eight books including In the Fields (Harvest Press 1982), which examines the lives of farm workers and their journey from Mexico illegally to the United States; With These Hands (Pilgrim Press 1986); To The Promised Land (Aperture 1988); Delta Time (Smithsonian 1995); a study of the southern landscape, cotton and poverty; Texas Death Row (University Press of Mississippi 1997); a look at life inside the death house as the condemned wait to be executed in Americas largest and most active Death Row; Witness In Our Time: The Lives of Social Documentary Photographers (Smithsonian 2000) and Coal Hollow published in 2006 by The University of California Press. His most recent book Valley of Shadows and Dreams was published in 2012 by Heyday Press.
Ken Light’s images have also been presented in numerous international magazines including Tempo; VSD; Nieuwe Revu; the London Telegraph, Time, Newsweek, Fortune, Mother Jones, The National Journal, Speak, L'Internazionale, Camera Arts, Paris-Match, Granta, the London Independent, Spanish Elle and in magazines in Japan and Korea, Holland, Denmark, Mexico, Spain and Italy as well as on MSNBC and 60 Minutes.
Ken Light has exhibited internationally in over 200 one-person and group shows including solo shows at the International Center of Photography; the Visual Studies Workshop; San Jose Museum of Modern Art; Oakland Museum of California; the Southeast Museum of Photography; Smith College Museum of Art and the Visa Pour L’IMAGE (France). His images are held in numerous public collections including the San Francisco MOMA, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, the International Center of Photography and the American Museum of Art (Smithsonian).
Light has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Photographers Fellowship twice, the Dorothea Lange Fellowship and a fellowship from the Erna and Victor Hasselblad Foundation. He is a Professor at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley and is Director of the Graduate Center for Photography, also at UC, Berkeley. He was the 2012 Laventhol Visiting Professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and has taught at the International Center for Photography and at numerous other colleges, museums and galleries throughout the US and Europe. He was editor of the University of California Press series on contemporary photography; a founder of the International Fund for Documentary Photography; and Fotovision.org, a non-profit documentary organization. He is professionally affiliated with the editorial photo agency Contact Press Image.
Melanie Light’s expertise lies in uniting text and images. She writes about photography, has written in collaboration with photographer Ken Light on two projects: Coal Hollow (2006) and Valley of Shadows and Dreams (2012), and has published several special edition photography books. She has worked in multimedia to extend the reach of her projects. She was the founding executive director of Fotovision, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting the international community of documentary photographers, and is the recipient of the California Book Award (2013) and grants from the Soros Documentary Fund and the Rosenberg Foundation. Light teaches and lectures internationally.
"Our sincerest wish is that this project will inspire everyone to look, see, and act—so much is at stake."
--Ken & Melanie Light
Click HERE for more information about Ken and Melanie Light.
All photographs are Silver Gelatin Prints.
|“ONLY GOD CAN JUDGE ME”
Drive-in, Madera County, California, 2007
|DRYING ALFALFA, HIGHWAY 180
Central Valley, California, 2006
|ROPE SWING, 6 P.M., 100°F
San Joaquin River, California, 2010
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