The UC Merced Library is happy to announce the public launch of the Ernest Lowe Photography Collection. This collection of photographs, which was acquired by the Library with support from the UC Merced Office of the Chancellor, showcases the work done by photographer Ernest Lowe to document the lives and struggles of the farmworking communities in California's Central Valley.
These photographs date from the late 1960s, which featured a series of flashpoints of labor activism among farmworkers in the Valley. Featured among these photographs are images from the Delano to Sacramento March, organized by the UFW, and where labor activists Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta figured prominently. Too, are images of Bobby Kennedy as he participated in a series of congressional hearings on the rights on farmworkers in Delano, CA.
Alongside these more dramatic scenes are images depicting the familial and community lives of these farmworkers. As viewers, we are drawn into the worlds these laborers built for themselves as they worked tirelessly in the fields, or struggled with the disappearance of jobs as a result of the mechanization of agriculture. We are drawn into communities like Teviston, where Black sharecroppers migrated to after the Second World War. These former sharecroppers came to California looking to escape the oppression of the Jim Crow South and the new-slavery tenant farming systems, but instead found themselves struggling to find work and dealing, once again, with a racism they had hoped to escape.
Ernest Lowe studied photography in the late 50's with the noted social documentarian, John Collier Jr. His other models were the classic images of Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, and other Farm Security Administration photographers. In 1959 Lowe joined the staff of Pacifica radio station KPFA and almost immediately began documenting the lives of migrant farm workers.
This rich collection features more than 2,700 digital images, with approximately 5,000 additional film negatives. The digital images are newly available on Calisphere for free public viewing.