Bill Mellett Photography

Using my own life's experiences as the canvas for my work.

The Two Californias

I recently visited southern California. I was working in Ventura and staying in Oxnard. Ventura has a nice beach and marina area. The marina is kind of touristy. There are several shops and restaurants and of course some very expensive boats visible behind locked gates. The tables in the restaurants look out either inland to the marina or out to the Pacific. The beach and marina area were obviously the result of careful town planning combined with beaucoup real estate development dollars to create this comfortable place for visitors to enjoy and leave some of their dollars behind.

Less than a mile inland the scene was very different. There were fruit fields being farmed by migrant farm workers. They were busy doing their thing; people hunched over in the fields picking crops and men moving various farm equipment around. I doubt that they noticed the beautiful hills with a marine cloud layer wrapping one mountain range like a cotton-candy turban.

One day on my lunch break I drove down to the beach. I stopped along the way at a farm stand and bought some strawberries and pistachio nuts. I was just there alone with my camera and my iPod, so I had some time to dwell on the situation and snap some photos. The strawberries must have been ripened on the vine. They were really, really good.

I wonder how many of those farm workers drive down to the beach on their lunch breaks? I didn’t see any.

I didn’t really pity the farm workers and I don’t think that they pitied themselves either. They all seemed to work very earnestly from what I saw. My guess is that they were probably just grateful for the work. I’m not sure that I’ll ever be able to eat some California fruit or walk down the produce isle in the supermarket without feeling a bit grateful myself for what I do have.