Claire Hutkins Seda with the Migrant Clinicians Network (MCN) reports about an event held last week with photojournalist Earl Dotter. The AFL-CIO’s director of health and safety, Peg Seminario, led a conversation with Dotter for a gathering of environmental and occupational health advocates.
“Earl Dotter has dedicated his life to chronicling the lives of workers in America, often documenting the dangers of work that few otherwise encounter. The event marked the release of Dotter’s new photograph book, and exhibit of the same name, “LIFE’S WORK, A Fifty Year Photographic Chronicle of Working in the USA.”
MCN’s director of environmental and occupational health, Amy Liebman, was one of many who attended the event.
“I came of age professionally in the worker health and safety movement with Earl Dotter’s images, bringing to life, in often painful ways, worker struggles and reinforcing the ongoing need to carry on the fight for worker safety,” Liebman remarked.
“Earl’s work illuminates the worker in a way that makes you recognize the person, the human being, who gets up each morning and goes to work, while introducing you to the sometimes brutal conditions these laborers face everyday on the job. It is truly an honor to celebrate Earl’s lifetime of work.”
Liebman wrote an introduction to the chapter titled, “WORK. RESPECT. DIGNITY. Shared Images and Stories of Maryland’s Eastern Shore Immigrants, 2014.” She describes venturing with Dotter to meet with workers in the crab houses on Crisfield and Hoopers Island, the watermelon fields near Delaware, and to the homes of construction and nursery workers in Salisbury, Maryland.
“Earl’s lens opened a door far beyond the images we set out to capture. The camera served as a vehicle to connect those living in the shadows of our community with all its residents.”
When the photo exhibit was revealed for local residents, Liebman described the event:
“It was an incredible moment – to see the workers and their families take in their own images displayed in an effort to showcase the value they offer our region.
It was perhaps the most diverse gathering I had been to in Salisbury since our East Coast Office opening in 1999. It shared the story of hardship and pride and the underlying desire of our immigrant community to survive with dignity and build a path for their children to have a better life.”
LIFE’S WORK, A Fifty Year Photographic Chronicle of Working in the USA has 15 chapters, including photographs from 1968 when Dotter first captured images of coal miners in West Virginia. Dairy workers, healthcare workers, Native American workers, poultry workers, and emergency responders at Ground Zero are just some of the images in the photo collection. Complementing each chapter are brief commentaries by 30 occupational health and safety experts and writers, including former MSHA chief, Davitt McAteer; Jane Lipscomb, professor, University of Maryland School of Nursing and Medicine; former OSHA chief, David Michaels; and Howard Berkes of National Public Radio.
I’m eager to buy a copy and design a way to use it in the classroom.