The Faces of Harvest: A Photo Essay

Fernando Hernandez Perez, 50, Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico. 9/24/2015, Rancho Lazaro vineyard, Sonoma
Fernando Hernandez Perez, 50, Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico. 9/24/2015, Rancho Lazaro Vineyard, Sonoma. (Photo by Erik Castro)

You may see their backs bent among the vines, moving at an urgent pace as they gather a crop too temperamental and too valuable to wait.

But you never see their faces. The harvesters have their features concealed beneath the brims of caps and hoodies, their expressions impossible to read.

Collectively, they drive the engine at the front end of winemaking. Their days of picking can begin at 2 a.m. and end in the beating rays at noon. Their workplace is not the quietly bucolic scene of rolling vineyards found on Wine Country postcards. It is filled with the thrum of generators, the smoke of exhaust, the growl of tractors.

What if they were to be coaxed to a camera, focused just on their faces? Who would we see?

Catalina Martinez, 38, Veracruz, Mexico • 9/23/2015, A. Rafanelli Winery vineyard, Healdsburg
Catalina Martinez, 38, Veracruz, Mexico. 9/23/2015, A. Rafanelli Winery vineyard, Healdsburg. (Photo by Erik Castro)

Photographer Erik Castro set out to capture the many faces of Sonoma’s grape harvest. He showed up at a dozen vineyards — Balletto, Quivira and Jack London Ranch among them — toward the end of shifts as long as 10 hours. Then Castro persuaded 70 harvesters — 67 men and three women — to sit down before a stranger. Hot and exhausted, they looked into his lens and revealed something of themselves.

Rafael Amador, 21, Hidalgo, Mexico. • 9/24/2015, Rancho Lazaro vineyard, Sonoma
Rafael Amador, 21, Hidalgo, Mexico. 9/24/2015, Rancho Lazaro vineyard, Sonoma. (Photo by Erik Castro)

They were as young as 21, as old as 73. They were all Mexican, from Oaxaca, Michoacán, Guanajato, Tlaxcala. One vineyard manager said that in 42 years he had only one American picker, and that was for a single day’s work.

“I don’t want you to look at the vineyards. I don’t want you to look at the hills,” Castro says. “All I want you to look at is the person. I’ve always thought when you look in somebody’s eyes, it removes the labels you might have on them. They don’t become an immigrant or a laborer. They become simply a human being.”


HARVESTER, a Photo Series by Erik Castro, is on display at Christie Marks Fine Art through September 17.

312 South A St., Suite 7, Santa Rosa, CA 95401, (707) 695-1011, christiemarksfineart.com

A selection of photographs from the Harvester photo series by Erik Castro:

Harvester_40x60_01
Juan Manuel Ojeda Flores, 30, Guanajuato, Mexico. 9/18/2015, Jack London Ranch vineyard, Glen Ellen. (Photo by Erik Castro)
Harvester_24x36_07
Raymundo Gutierrez, 42, Oaxaca, Mexico. 9/23/2015, A. Rafanelli Winery vineyard, Healdsburg. (Photo by Erik Castro)
Harvester_24x36_14
Sylvia Elizza, 32, Oaxaca, Mexico. 9/19/2015, Ted Williams Vineyard, Santa Rosa. (Photo by Erik Castro)
Harvester_24x36_10
Juan Pablo, 24, Aguascalientes, Mexico. 9/23/2015, A. Rafanelli Winery vineyard, Healdsburg. (Photo by Erik Castro)
Harvester_24x36_05
Jorge Chavez, 54, Michoacán, Mexico. 9/8/2015, Quivira Vineyards, Healdsburg. (Photo by Erik Castro)
Harvester_24x36_03
Eduardo Cardana, 22, Michoacán, Mexico. 9/5/2015, River Road Ranch Vineyard, Windsor. (Photo by Erik Castro)
Harvest-Face-JLondon_135
Miguel Santiago, 38, Guerrero, Mexico. 9/18/2015, Jack London Ranch vineyard, Glen Ellen. (Photo by Erik Castro)
Harvester_24x36_04
Nacio Lopez Garcia, 39, Michoacán, Mexico. 9/5/2015, River Road Ranch Vineyard, Windsor. (Photo by Erik Castro)
Harvester_40x60_02
Julian llamas, 55, Jalisco, Mexico. 10/9/2015, Linked Vineyards, Santa Rosa. (Photo by Erik Castro)
Harvester_24x36_01
Jose Ordaz, 58, Palo Alto, Michoacán, Mexico. 9/18/2015, Jack London Ranch vineyard, Glen Ellen. (Photo by Erik Castro)
Harvester_24x36_08
Lorenzo Carrasco, 40, Oaxaca, Mexico. 9/23/2015, A. Rafanelli Winery vineyard, Healdsburg. (Photo by Erik Castro)

Looking for more things to do in Sonoma County? Click here

Read previous post:
Halloween Cover Show: A Spooky Good Time

A night of sinfully sweet takes on some of our favorite tracks.

Close