the Other lens photography by Ernesto Méndez
Sponsored by: Sandra Leibham
August 5 - 28, 2021
Opening Reception: August 5th, 5:30 - 7 p.m.
In 2018 my friend Alfredo, who comes here every year to work during the harvests, invited me to work on the cherry fields of Oregon. Since I was at the beginning of a personal crisis, after divorce and with a creative burnout, I said “Why not?”. I arrived at the cherry fields and started working as a checker for the pickers. At the time I did not want to do more photography -I was so tired of the medium- but I was so impressed by the new reality I was living that coming back to photography was unavoidable. I just reacted to the action and took photos with my cellphone - I still was very connected with the medium.
Being among the splendorous beauty of the Columbia River Gorge, watching hundreds of hard-working men and women picking, climbing, running from tree to tree under the hot sun of the Oregon summer, felt both beautiful and war-like to me. The whole experience on the cherry fields, witnessing the huge operation that picking fruit involves, and living among the migrant workers, was a big impression for me, a big-city dweller.
Later in 2020, the year of the pandemic, though I was relatively doing well in Mexico City as a documentary filmmaker, I ran out of money. I decided to come back to The Dalles, but this time at the cherry packing plant, crossing the Columbia River. It was cold and repetitive work for 10 hours daily, but once again I had the chance to live another reality and to get to know more about the human condition. Also I was happy to be here again with my friend Alfredo, partaking in his annual pilgrimage to this special part of the world. At that time I shot mostly landscapes, intimate portraits, and some incognito images of the packing process, all on film.
Wrapping this up: This exhibition is a glance at what a common laborer lives during cherry season, it’s just a small slice of the story, but a story that not everyone in the Columbia River Gorge is aware of.
Ernesto Méndez is an independent filmmaker, photographer and barista. He has worked two cherry seasons at the Columbia River Gorge and currently rescues old forgotten movies in a film preservation foundation in San Francisco, California.
A photographer and filmmaker, he [Méndez] was born in Mexico City in 1987. Since the beginnings of his career, he has shown an interest in human expression and interaction in a dystopic landscape mitigated by the last sign of life of a love that barely survives: the gleam in the eyes of his characters, which is a constant in his work as a photographer. Méndez’s loving pessimism is not a rhetoric-anthropological one that only watches its surroundings and describes them through gentrified display cases; but, rather, it reflects the state of the soul in relation to life’s manifestations. This vision, that oscillates from decadence to hope, is distilled in his first feature film, It’s Me Charlie Monttana (2020), where the creator is faded together with his camera-narrator, to place us right at the middle of the events: a multidimensional close-up shot—contradictory, yes, but also complex and beautiful—on a human being. -By Carlos Sandoval, composer and multimedia artist. Berlin, 2020.