Working in the Shadows

farmworkers in san joaquin valleyWith the release of Cesar Chavez , i thought i’d re-visit a personal project i’ve been working on about immigrant farmworkers in California. Maybe it’s because i’m not from here, but this hidden, yet essential workforce has always fascinated me. They may be in America, but it’s certainly not a dream…..
farmworkers in san joaquin valleyCalifornia has long been the land of the migrant farm worker. From the dust bowl migration of the great depression, as depicted by John Steinbeck in Grapes of Wrath, to todays countless undocumented border jumpers. With an endless supply of an increasingly desperate labor-force, California’s central valley economy continues to reap the benefit, becoming the main agricultural center in the US and propelling the State to the level of a global economic power.
farmworkers in san joaquin valleyFor many who cross America’s borders illegally however, life can be harsh; some have no option but live in shanty town- like labor camps; some of the women are subjected to rape. Even embezzlement by fellow Mexicans immigrants is a problem, as well as the pure physical exhaustion of the un- regulated manual work, not to mention the constant fear of deportation. All to earn just $6 an hour.
farmworkers in san joaquin valleyHuron, a small town of 5,900, is a virtual Grand Central terminal for the immigrant workforce. Twice a year, lettuce is harvested in the area, and the population at least doubles in size. Known as the “Heart of the Valley,” Huron, in western Fresno county, lies about 50 miles southwest of Fresno. This is the heartland for what inspired Steinbeck, and where he ultimately set his literary classic.
'Working In The Shadows', un-documented farmworkers, Huron, Ca.It’s like a time- warp to a frontier town of the Old West, except the cowboys are all Latino’s and instead of carrying six- shooters, they’re packing lettuce knives! It has been described as ‘knife-fight city’ by some, due to the evening activities of some migrants who descend on the town. There’s a handful of bars, five gangs and a famous drug alley. In 1992, the mayor was shot in a dispute between bar owners and resigned. With it’s undocumented and transient workforce, cash is the preferred form of payment, and robberies are common. Gang members know most workers don’t have bank accounts.farmworkers in san joaquin valleyIn 1998, Huron averaged 15% unemployment, and it’s per capita income was fifth lowest in the state, with 39% of it’s residents living below the poverty line. Many of the migrant workers either live in the labor camps in town for about $6 a night, or in converted garages and back-yard sheds, paying $300 a month or more. There is limited housing available for farm workers, and many live in trailer parks that have sprung up over town, that don’t have permits for even basic utilities. Not much seems to have changed for the impoverished and desperate working man since the 1930’s. As Steinbeck described in Grapes of Wrath; “They ain’t human. A human being wouldn’t live like they do. A human being couldn’t stand it to be so dirty and miserable.”farmworkers in san joaquin valleyEnrique is a 35 year old undocumented farmworker from San Luis, Mexico. He began his journey north on Valentine’s Day 2006, leaving behind a mother, sister and niece. In his quest to reach California, he paid a coyote $1200 and endured three straight days and nights walking in the Arizona desert. He makes his home for now, which was donated, in an overcrowded and moldy trailer in the backyard of a sympathetic Huron resident’s house. He is lucky, although damp and cramped, he manages to find privacy and safety over the choice living in a shared room at the labor camps.farmworkers in san joaquin valleyThis photo- essay examines the daily life of the undocumented immigrant, picking food for our tables at minimum wage, whilst we debate whether we even want them here.

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JFK assassination- 50 years later

This month marks the fiftieth anniversary since that fateful day in Dallas when John F. Kennedy was brutally gunned down in broad daylight. A day that etched so much into the public’s lexicon…. grassy knoll, Texas School Book Depository, “back and to the left” and of course the Zapruder footage. Drop any one of these into a sentence and everyone knows what you’re talking about. And yet, fifty years later, the conspiracy theories and obsession with the assassination has not waned. If anything, since 9/11, suspicions have increased.

The 'grassy knoll', Dallas, Texas.

The ‘grassy knoll’, Dallas, Texas.


I too have fallen victim to fascination with those events, even simply about the very place where history unfolded. Dealey Plaza remains pretty much unchanged, almost a living time- capsule to November 22, 1963, and so it should. It is fascinating to walk around, stand on the same spot seen all around the world, and try to put yourself in the shoes of those standing there that day. What thoughts must have been going through there minds from one moment to the other? And then, glance around, perhaps to that grassy knoll, and ask yourself, who was standing there, if anyone, and what exactly did happen?
The view from the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository.

The view from the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository.


On my first trip around the US, traveling like any good European, and not a single American, i chose to travel by train, which was a great way to see the country, if not a little laborious at times. However, on the slow pull into Dallas, late at night, i was fascinated to keep an eye out for anything recognizable, particularly Dealey Plaza. I’d known that the famed grassy knoll backed onto some rail yards, so i wondered if i might travel near by. Not a moment after having that thought, i seemed to cross over a strangely familiar underpass, that was in fact Elm Street. Dealey Plaza was right there in front of me….the single most dramatic and tragic location of American, if not world history in the last century or so! It was a breathtaking discovery. I knew from past stops the train would wait for about ten minutes or so at the station, so as we crawled to a halt not more than a couple of hundred yards later, i seized my opportunity (of course i wasn’t to know i’d again be in Dallas years later to shoot Tony Romo, quarterback of the Cowboys!). Anyway, so i jumped off the train, into the balmy Texas night air, ran down the street, guessed a left, followed by another left, and soon found myself in the same spot where the mysterious ‘umbrella man’ put up his brolly, just before the first shots rang out. JFK…. may he rest in peace.
Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas. X marks the spot. In this case, the exact location where the third and fatal bullet hit.

Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas. X marks the spot. In this case, the exact location where the third and fatal bullet hit.


One of the most outspoken conspiracy theorists, filmmaker Oliver Stone, is taking the opportunity to look back by releasing a collector’s edition of ‘JFK’ on November 12th. The box set includes a director’s cut, a Kennedy-themed portion of Stone’s Showtime documentary The Untold History of the United States and another full-length documentary on the assassination. In addition, Stone and Warner Bros. are re-releasing JFK in New York, Los Angeles and Washington from November 8th through the 14th.
Oliver Stone, director of JFK

Oliver Stone, director of JFK

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article in ‘Photo Professional’

Photo Professional magazine did a very nice six- page story about me and my work in their latest issue (issue 82 out now). Thanks Terry for taking the time and interest, you make it all sound so cool and interesting!
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Waiting for Endeavour

The Space Shuttle holds a special place in my heart. I was obsessed with Space travel from an early age, and yes, Astronaut was my first what-do-i-wanna-do-when-i-grow-up thing. Added to the fact i was born in the year Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon. But the Space Shuttle in particular was exciting to me, because it was the first program i got to fully experience right from the beginning, so you can see how i’d built up a strong connection. It felt like my space program. In fact, one of my earliest school memories, when i was maybe 10 years old or so, we had to give a class demonstration on any subject of our choosing (a daunting prospect to any kid). As i considered myself somewhat of an expert on the Shuttle, naturally i chose it, focusing on the remarkable aspect that everything was re-useable. But what i specifically remember was when one class- mate asked the question “what do they do with their waste?”, i answered “They re-use it!”, not realising he meant their toilet waste. I now stood in front of a room full of howling class-mates! Thanks Space Shuttle. Good times. Anyway, it’s been a long journey, but she’s finally retired, and i was compelled to take a look at her last journey, which was without doubt one of her strangest, through the mean- streets of South Central L.A. Good on yer Space Shuttle, always interesting right to the end. It was great to see she still inspires hope and wonder wherever she goes though.

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‘Fighters magazine’; a self-promo piece.

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If you’re a lucky photo editor or art buyer, coming soon to a desk near you…. our latest promo-zine ‘Fighters’. We hope you enjoy.

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Deep Creek Natural Springs


Over the christmas holidays myself and some friends took a hike out to one of the Los Angeles’s hidden treasures….. Deep Creek natural hot springs. It’s really quite a remarkable find, and quite a long uphill hike back. But make sure you leave the springs before the sun goes down, or you’ll be sleeping rough out there in the California desert.

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LA Gun Club

Not much of a gun- afficianado as such, but it is a fun and unusual thing to do when the parents are in town from UK. So off we went to shoot some Guns Yee-ha! Those things are surprisingly accurate…. or i’m extraordinarily good at it ( i think it’s the former). We shot a Beretta 9mm, and an AM-15, which is basically an M-16. It’s makes you think, you don’t have to be an amazing talent to hit the target with these machines in your hands. Scary thought really.

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Football season is starting to get interesting

It’s time to do some stretching, then sit back and watch the mad rush for the playoffs begin. I love me some NFL football! Photographed during Pittsburgh Steelers at Arizona Cardinals for TIME magazine.

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BlizzCon for The Times Magazine


I recently had an interesting assignment for The Times of London saturday magazine, to enter a world unlike any other; where seemingly normal people played out there fantasies….as fantasy characters, and danced in a dance- off…..yes, a fantasy dance-off. Blizzcon is the annual ‘festival’ of Blizzard Entertainment, creators of the video game ‘world of warcraft’ and it’s like Vegas meets toysrus on steroids. Vegas because the three huge conference arenas are dark, packed and endlessly huge, lit only by the glow of thousands of computer screens reflected off expressionless faces staring into oblivion.
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But this is the kind of assignment i do enjoy. Where you can literally slip un-noticed into someone else’s world. Observe, capture, document. And with the subjects being so immersed in their own goings on, you can simply shoot and think creatively, without anyone bothering you, or asking questions. I love just being able to roam unfettered. But i have to say, the costumes some of these people created…..quite unbelieveable, they literally shoot themselves. So thank you, made my life easier!
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