"Salt of the Earth: Arrival"
Carole Conde and Karl Beveridge, "Salt of the Earth: Arrival," photograph, 2008, 14" x 42".
From Different Perspectives: Photographs from the Agricultural Landscape, April 8 to June 9, 2010, The Reach Gallery, Abbotsford
BY: Jill Sawyer
Open just since 2008, The Reach Gallery in Abbotsford was created to reflect the culture of the Fraser Valley region, through visual art and heritage exhibitions. So it’s fitting that this spring show centres on images of farmworkers, in a region known for its rich agricultural output. The landscapes in this show aren’t exactly bucolic. Curator Scott Marsden has brought together four artists — Craig Berggold, Elaine Brier, Carole Conde, and Karl Beveridge — who have documented scenes of migrant farmworkers in North American fields and orchards. Using stylized techniques, Conde and Beveridge have documented Mexican workers in Ontario, while Brier uses a traditional social documentary style to depict the work lives and home lives of Mexican apple pickers in the Yakima Valley of Washington State. Berggold’s work was inspired by assignments he did for the Canadian Farmworkers Union in B.C. in the early 1980s — he was hired to document working conditions of itinerant agricultural workers, which he did using actors, and setups. Each of the photographs depicts a true incident that poisoned, injured, or killed farmworkers or their children. “This show is about farm workers, as opposed to farm work,” Marsden says. “It shows that these are complicated lives, and that they are part of the agricultural landscape. Their stories are rarely told — about the only time you hear about them is when there’s some sort of horrific accident.”