Gracias

  • MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Migrant Head Start program

    Celia Roberts photo
  -I was like everybody else," says photographer Celia Roberts. "I'd go to the grocery store and get some broccoli and not think, "Might that last hand that touched it be the one that picked it?" "''''Lest we also forget, Roberts is here to remind us. "Gracias," her bilingual, year 2000 calendar, illuminates the lives of farm workers who contribute to our tables. Her photographic essay began in 1992, when she was commissioned by the Farmworker Health Services of Colorado to undertake a black-and-white study of the state's field workers. "People say, "These are nice, but why do you have all these pictures of Mexico?" I say, "Sorry, these are right here." "''''Most of the calendar's photos were shot in Delta and Montrose counties, she says, on Colorado's Western Slope, where Roberts has lived for seven years. The rest were taken in Arizona, Texas and Kentucky. She says her project was in the documentary tradition of photographer Dorothea Lange, who worked for the federal government chronicling the Dust-bowl era's itinerant population. But unlike Lange's stark portraits, which Roberts says she admires but wouldn't want on her wall for a month, these photos are a celebration. That's not to say her subjects have it easy: Almost all migrant families have incomes below poverty level, she says, often earning less than $6,500 per year. Roberts says most workers tell her, "You know, all we want is a thank you." Now they have one.


"Gracias' is $10.95. A portion of the proceeds from its sale will be donated to the National Center for Farmworker Health, the Harvest of Hope Foundation and the César E. Chçvez Foundation. To purchase it, or other farm worker photographs, contact Celia Roberts at P.O. Box 5, Paonia, CO 81428, celia@paonia.com or 970/527-4457.


*Karen Mockler