The New American Dustbowl: Documenting California’s Drought

In comparison to FSA photographs, Matt Black captures not only the problem arising in California, but also the effects on the people actually living the drought at this moment. His photos include both the conditions of the terrain and its inhabitants, but of coarse, not forgetting to add a slice of the emotional–photos of seasoned farmers and shepherds looking very anxious about the current state of the water irrigation, a dead tree lying in front of a market looking equally deserted, photos of children trapped in the middle of these difficulties. It is pretty much like the FSA photographs during the Great Depression, which sought to grab the attention of those seemingly unperturbed by the economic catastrophe. Perhaps, the reason why these photos have not achieved its goal to enlighten people is ‘compassion fatigue’, which, in a nutshell, is the lessening of compassion from people because they are so used to seeing similar photos. With the power of smartphones and the efficiency of social media these days, people are quickly updated with different levels of wretchedness, day by day, 24/7, that they can quickly dismiss this problem, knowing that a comparable news story would surface soon. What I do not understand however, is the fact that the government is seemingly not doing anything about this. How come (for a person like me who doesn’t watch the news regularly), that all I hear about these days has something to do with terrorism in a foreign country, when a problem like this in our own soil is looming so largely? Hectares of land are becoming useless and our own people jobless!

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