Sonoma Hotels, Sonoma People

The Faces of Harvest: A Photo Essay

Photographer Erik Castro's poignant photo series captures the faces of Sonoma County grape harvest workers, traveling great distances to toil at this labor-intensive job.

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)
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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)

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Comments

14 thoughts on “The Faces of Harvest: A Photo Essay

  1. I’m buying 3 of these photos so that I can look at them and thank them for their hard, slave-like work so that I can enjoy a glass of wine. Huge thanks to immigrant workers who pick our food for us.

  2. An article about “trimmagrants being exploited” and then this article…no mention of the vast and far more egregious exploitation…

  3. Bravo and beautiful. I agree , put them on the label! I’ve always loved these types photos that capture the leathered hard working hands and the soul the of person through their eyes. Ive taken photo of my dad’s leathered hands, they tell a story. He supported a family of 9 with those precious hands. To do this day I find hands like those in these photos stunning and familiar.

  4. Because no American will do this hard work BURT! I praise these men and women with tired backs and stained hands only to make white people a lot wealthier. Ya lets build a fucking wall and see who harvests are grapes-;lettuce tomatoes and everything you put on a sandwich. These faces should be on the bottles of wine!

    1. Yeah and none of these guys and gals will take out your appendix either. We already know them, they are the people who are driving by without a license and insurance. Even after you liberal asshats made it possible for them to get both.

    2. So why isn’t it a article about the exploitation of the poor grape picker? There will always be stoop labor to work the fields. I buy veggies from my friends and neighbors. There’s a whole world of farm goods out side of the supermarket. Try supporting a farmers market instead of Costco, dim wit.

      1. Most people go to the grocery store to buy fruits and vegies you! And for that matter-many white people who drive drunk with a DUI over their heads drive without a license or insurance you moron! Yo
        u cannot say that all your produce comes from friends and neighbors-what the hell do you do in the winter months. These people working our fields have more integrity and honor than most white people on this planet. They never complain-thankful for the little bit they have and take this LITTLE money they make back to their country and live for an entire year. I have been in these fields-I have worked with their children and they far supersedes many bigot assholes that call themselves Caucasians. Ya-we need to build a wall-but only to keep bigot-racists people out of this country. And yes, that wall has an exit sign with your your name on it.

        1. burt tut … I have no words for you …
          He’s not worth it Deborah. This is what happens to the US when fear and bigotry come out of the gutter.

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