Irrigating by Hand
In 1959, Harvey Richards spent some time in Guatemala photographing people and places, including these photos of three men irrigating a vegetable garden by hand. Today, in the age of industrial farming and mechanization, these images remind us of how human beings lived for thousands of years. Given the climate crisis, and the staggering explosion of pollution in our air, land, water and our bodies, they are photos we can all learn from.
People today might think that hard work is a feature of underdevelopment. Yet, we in modern cities pay athletic club fees to lift weights and run in place on treadmills to make up for the lack of it.
Walking with bare feet through a garden may seem harsh to modern tender footed urban dwellers. Yet, today, many of us are putting vegetable gardens over our lawns, on our balconies and rooftops, yearning for more direct contact with the earth and control over the food we eat.
Dipping water from a stream might appear “primitive” to modern eyes used to engineered rivers and dams that carry water hundreds of miles into huge agricultural farms. Yet, modern youth today are flocking back into organic agriculture searching for meaning in their lives and ways to grow good un-poisoned food in a world where all of our rivers have been contaminated with excessive fertilizers, pesticides and urban run-off.
Simple photos of preindustrial times now evoke the new paradigm of life that is working its way through the modern world, person by person, generation by generation. Our hopes for mechanization proved hollow when putting profits before people leaves millions unemployed. Rather than liberating human labor, mechanization ruled by greed threatens the health of the planet including all living species, and has given us a harsh culture ruled by the gun.