In celebration of Latino Heritage Month 2023, chaired by Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, Unsung Heroes: Somos LA is dedicated to our everyday heroes, including an archival collection of Southern CA Farmworkers, along with those that work tirelessly, and often thanklessly, to help their community, and those who, through being their authentic selves, help guide us towards a more just tomorrow.
Curated by 11:11 Projects
David Andrade | Lilith Carolina Ferreira | Castro Frank
With archival images by Emmon Clarke & John Kouns Courtesy of the Tom and Ethel Bradley Center and the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts, California State University, Northridge
This series is a profound exploration of a pivotal moment in American society when essential workers, especially those in the food service industry, transformed into unsung heroes during the COVID-19 pandemic. These photographs serve as a testament to their unwavering dedication and resilience.
In the midst of a world that seemingly stood still, essential workers continued their invaluable contributions to society. The food service industry, known for its low wages and demanding work, saw its workers face countless challenges. Yet, for a brief period, their tireless efforts were acknowledged, and their importance magnified.
"Feed Hope" emerged as a beacon of light during these trying times, led by Arlin Crane and her team of food service professionals at Homegirl Cafe. Their mission was clear: to prepare nourishing meals for those in need while ensuring their own staff remained employed. This team stepped forward when the world retreated.
I embarked on a journey to document Feed Hope in July 2020. Through photography and videography, I captured their dedication as they produced 3000 meals daily, distributing them to individuals facing food insecurity throughout Los Angeles. Their partnerships with organizations like World Central Kitchen and Meals on Wheels amplified their impact, delivering meals to those who needed them most.
The images within this exhibit reveal the early mornings and late evenings spent in preparation, cooking, and cleanup. They showcase the team's commitment to serving senior citizens, families in crisis, and those who were already food insecure. Feed Hope expanded its mission, providing meals for Amazon Studios and even for the essential workers during the 2020 Presidential Election.
Though the Feed Hope faced an unfortunate halt in September 2022, the legacy of their dedication lives on. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to Arlin Crane, the Feed Hope team, Homegirl Cafe, and Homeboy Industries for allowing me to document their incredible work during one of the most challenging and unprecedented times in recent history. This series celebrates these individuals, transforming their stories into a visual narrative that honors their heroism and resilience.
LILITH CAROLINA FERREIRA
Carolina joined Las Fotos Projects, an LA-based organization dedicated to the empowerment of young women through photography and mentoring, in Spring of 2019 and has since developed her style through photographing and storytelling the youth subcultures in Los Angeles. Carolina’s images depict heroes within her life and community; her friends, the creatives she surrounds herself with, and those who have provided her with support, solace, and encouragement.
The farmworker movement of the 1960s and 1970s forged a broad coalition of workers, students, activists, and religious allies that won most of its early battles leveraging its diversity and pushing the country towards a more perfect union. The movement accomplished this not only by extending collective bargaining rights to farmworkers but also by creating "a social movement akin to the abolitionists who appealed to northern consumers not to buy southern-made textiles as a protest against slavery, or that of the Montgomery bus boycotters who asked blacks and white allies not to use public transportation until the segregation of buses ended."1 The diversity of this coalition is reflected in the images taken by young photographers who joined the farmworker movement. These photographers documented it and volunteered their work for the union. That was the case of photographers John Kouns (1929-2019) and Emmon Clarke (1931-2022). Kouns documented the movement for a decade and was affiliated with the union for more than 40 years. He was committed to photograph and be part of this labor and social struggle while earning a living as a commercial photographer. "Freelancing for food and documenting for the soul," he wrote of his experience with the United Farm Workers union (UFW). Kouns was one of a small group of photographers who documented the farmworker movement since its infancy, always from the perspective of somebody openly sympathetic and concerned about injustices. Only he and Jon Lewis photographed the entire 330-mile march from Delano to Sacramento in 1966. Clarke became part of the movement and volunteered his work for the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA, and later UFW). Clarke became photo editor of the union newspaper El Malcriado in 1966–1967 and he documented union activities in the picket line, in meetings, at rallies, and in the labor camps of the San Joaquin Valley.
The “Farmworker Movement Collection” is a series collected and maintained by the Tom and Ethel Bradley Center on the campus of California State University, Northridge. The collection is on loan from the Tom and Ethel Bradley Center and the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts.
The mission of the Tom & Ethel Bradley Center is to collect, preserve, and disseminate the visual history of the region with an emphasis on ethnic minority communities and photographers. The Bradley Center also promotes research, serves as a center for the exchange of ideas about our visual history, and contributes to the region’s educational efforts through our exhibitions, programs, and digital archives.