© 2019 Anna Van Lenten

The Dry Land by Matt Black +

California: Paradise Burning, a short film by Ed Kashi, Matt Black, and Sky Dylan-Robbins 

November 2014

Exhibit opening, screening, & talk
Tuesday November 11, 2014, 7:30 PM
Moderated by Whitney Johnson, photo editor at The New Yorker
In The Dry Land, Matt Black documents, in beautiful, stark pictures, the agricultural effects of California's drought, now going into its third year. Matt and Ed, who shot the accompanying video, have focused mainly on people—workers and farmers both—who are the face of the worsening drought. (Scroll down to view California: Paradise Burning, the short film we screened at the opening that was shot by Ed Kashi and Matt in conjunction with this project.)
 
While you don't miss your water till your well runs dry, the problem with California's third worst drought in 106 years is that farmers are pumping groundwater to supply 75% of their shortage—the state has 8 million acres of irrigated farmland. With reservoirs under 30% full (and forests tinderbox-dry), groundwater will only keep so many acres going—in fact, farmers are having to drill deeper and deeper for that, as acquifers are depleted. But it's not just the over $2 billion lost to the economy this year, it's the over 17,000 individuals who have lost jobs and can't feed their families or send money back home. Matt & Ed's projects share a few of those folks's stories.
 
As documents, The Dry Land and California: Paradise Burning are probably a harbinger of the future: when scientists review the past 8000 years of ecology in California, it turns out that dry conditions are the norm, not the exception. And in truth, the 20th century's profligate water use—for instance, green lawns as far as the eye can see—has come to a come-uppance. With mandatory rationing, more efficient irrigation systems (such as drip irrigation), fines for overuse, education, water recycling, and better data reporting, perhaps Californians will get a handle on the one part of this drought they can control: their consumption. Meanwhile, with no end in sight, and a dry winter predicted for 2014, the pain and hardship Matt and Ed have captured will likely continue.
~ Anna Van Lenten