Farmworker Movement Documentation Project - Presented by the UC San Diego Library

Farmworker Movement Online Gallery

Images from the Farmworker Movement


Album list Last uploads Most viewed Search Home Upload file Login
Category Albums Files
IntroductionHow I Became Staff Photographer for Cesar Chavez
and the United Farm Workers

by Cathy Murphy

In 1974, I was a student at Brooks Institute of Photography and a photographer for the Santa Barbara News and Review. I photographed entertainers, city council meetings and striking farm workers on picket lines near Oxnard.

During the summer of 1975, Cesar Chavez and a group of supporters began a march from San Ysidro, California, called The Thousand Mile March. Every day the group walked 20-25 miles so Chavez could inform farm workers along the way that recent legislation supported by Governor Jerry Brown and passed by the California legislature, granted farm workers the right to hold elections in the fields.

When I first saw Chavez I wondered how such a small man could have the courage to challenge Californias powerful agribusiness. Walking in front of Chavez were his two large German Shepard dogs, Boycott and Huelga. Behind and beside him were security guards. I jumped into the line, behind the dogs and directly in front of Chavez. I raised my camera and Chavez dark, piercing eyes looked directly into the lens. As I took the photograph, I knew immediately I was looking at a very powerful person.

Within minutes Chavez summoned me. He wanted to know who I was. I explained my assignment and told him I supported the farm workers and the grape boycott. I offered to send photographs to the UFW photographer. Fate often seemed to step in during my time with Chavez. The day before in Los Angeles, the UFW photographer had quit.

Chavez asked to see my photographs of the strikers that ran in the Santa Barbara newspaper. After viewing the photos, he offered me the job of Staff Photographer. Like all UFW volunteers, I would receive $5 per week for wages and housing at the UFW headquarters at La Paz in Keene, California. Chavez charisma had drawn me in and I couldnt refuse. I knew this was an historic journey and I was honored to be part of it.

I continued documenting the history of the farm workers as they toiled in the hot fields from dawn until dusk. Children worked beside their parents, some only in their stocking feet. I photographed strikes, stoop laborers with short-handled hoes and workers being sprayed with pesticides from unannounced low-flying crop dusters.

A grant from the Woody Guthrie Foundation made it possible for me to travel with a crew of lettuce workers from Salinas to Calexico to Mesa, Arizona. Inter-Harvest Inc. gave me permission to photograph in their fields and the workers welcomed me and my cameras into their labor camps. I printed hundreds of photographs that culminated in the photo documentary From the California Fields produced in the UFW print shop. The documentary traveled to 12 major U.S. cities and was on display at the 1976 Democratic Convention.

My friendship with Chavez and his family grew. I returned to La Paz many times. From March to September of 2005, photographs of The Thousand Mile March, Chavez family portraits and some of my personal favorites of farm workers and their children in the fields were exhibited at the National Cesar E. Chavez Foundation Center in La Paz.

My photo documentary, Witness, Cesar Chavez and the Farm Workers, opened in September, 2005 at the University of Arizona in Tucson. In 2006 and 2007, Marching Through History with Cesar Chavez and the Farm Workers was exhibited at Pasadena City College, in California, Stony Brook University, on Long Island, the Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Center and Columbia University, in New York City.

My first photograph of Cesar Chavez, taken on that historic day in 1975, was selected in December of 2006 as the image to represent Chavez, and be etched into the California Hall of Fame in Sacramento. This photo was also printed on thousands of posters sponsored by the Governors Office of Volunteers honoring Chavez birthday, March 31st, with a day of service and learning throughout California schools.

I continue to teach photography at Cochise College and to document the Tarahumara Indians of Copper Canyon, Mexico. To view more of my images or to schedule an exhibit of Marching Through History with Cesar Chavez and the Farm Workers please view my web site at: cathymurphyphotography.net.

CESAR CHAVEZ


RESIZED_MURPY_WEB_21.jpg

47 files, last one added on Aug 26, 2008
Album viewed 250 times

CHILD LABOR


Little_boy_carrying_bag_of_onions_NEW.jpg

6 files, last one added on Jan 26, 2008
Album viewed 77 times

RICHARD CHAVEZ


Richard_Chavez_speaking_to_supporters_on_Prop_14.jpg

1 files, last one added on Jan 14, 2008
Album viewed 53 times

FARM LABOR


RESIZED_MURPY_WEB_25.jpg

15 files, last one added on Aug 26, 2008
Album viewed 90 times

FARMWORKER PORTRAITS


RESIZED_MURPY_WEB_12.jpg

6 files, last one added on Aug 26, 2008
Album viewed 72 times

FILIPINO BROTHERS


Filipino_farm_worker.jpg

2 files, last one added on Feb 16, 2009
Album viewed 59 times

MARSHALL GANZ


Marshal_Gantz___farm_workers_toast_the_day_the_Teamster_Union_left_the_fields,_Calexico.jpg

1 files, last one added on Jan 14, 2008
Album viewed 104 times

DOLORES HUERTA


RESIZED_MURPY_WEB_07.jpg

4 files, last one added on Aug 26, 2008
Album viewed 85 times

THOUSAND MILE MARCH


long_line_of_marchers_near_King_City_copy.jpg

5 files, last one added on May 16, 2007
Album viewed 86 times

 

9 albums on 1 page(s)