In 1987, Emmet won the coveted Canon Photo Essayist Award in the NPPA (National Press Photographers Association) sponsored Pictures of the Year Awards for his published book, Fruit Tramps: A Family of Migrant Workers. He was also nominated for a Pulitzer. Herman LeRoy Emmet's award-winning photographs have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York and are represented in the MOMA's permanent collection.Read More
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Purchases of a Herman Leroy Emmet print or original at the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition Summerscapes exhibition this summer as well as during their Fall Exhibition on October 26th helped raise funds for Team Fox’s Parkinson Research. 100% of the profits from the sale were donated to the Michael J Fox Foundation.
Herman Leroy Emmet preparing for the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition exhibition, reviewing print quality, selecting artworks and above all…reminiscing. The stories behind each piece are spellbinding.Read More
'WE MADE IT. SHE AND I'
By JUDITH MARA GUTMAN; Judith Mara Gutman teaches a course on ''Photography and the Word'' at the New School for Social Research.
Published: May 13, 1990
A Family of Migrant Farmworkers.
By Herman LeRoy Emmet.
Illustrated. 58 pp. Albuquerque:
University of New Mexico Press.
It's rare, but here is a whole book - and a gem it is - in which text and photographs echo and drive, rather than peacefully war with each other. They introduce the awesome and unsettling Tindal family, who live by picking fruit. ''Hell, I fruit tramp to survive,'' Luther Henry (L. H.) Tindal says. ''I like the freedom. I choose the life. Fruit tramp says what I am. Migrant don't. . . . [It's] a statistic.''
Herman Emmet, the author and photographer of ''Fruit Tramps,'' lived with the Tindals intermittently over nine years; he worked and traveled with them in the Carolinas, Florida and upstate New York, played cards, foraged for wood. The dialogue we read is in words they used in speaking to a friend.
''Sometimes I see the 'gators sunnin' on the canal banks while I'm pickin' fruit,'' one of the Tindals says. ''You get to know 'em after a while. . . . Each one is different.'' Vagaries of a life barely known to most of us reverberate with a satisfaction and even a love that only intensifies under stress. Why else would four generations continue living the same way? Sure, there is resentment, anger. But it simply moves on with them to the next job, along with their love. Is there finally a triumph in fruit picking?
There is for Luther Tindal, the father, who is 35 years old when the book begins. He is proud he is making it. ''No, let me re-a-state that. I didn't make it, we made it. She and I.'' In 1983 he and his wife, Linda, who was 27, earned a little over $1300 plus $500 in food stamps. And the truth in his words settles into Mr. Emmet's affectionate description of Linda Tindal shampooing her hair in a canal - which echoes endearingly many pages later when we see a photograph of five-year-old Tina Tindal ambling along the canal's levee toward her mother. Text and photograph fix the triumph.
Damnation in the Tindals' life exists only inside the triumph they feel. As readers we are caught in a crazy paradox: we are shaken by the deprivation that goes with this life, while feeling the Tindals reach beyond themselves. We are riled by their being treated as less than human beings - not being able to rent a room in Olcott, N.Y., because they were ragged, dirty, and - let's face it - somewhat wild. And we root for Luther's devil-take-the-hindmost independence.
But if this is a story of a family moving through the fundamental American dream of an open road, it is also a story of the impulses that compel, maintain and finally rip at life in America, especially life among the poor. The Tindals evoke the contradictory drives of the families in J. Anthony Lukas's ''Common Ground,'' and ''Fruit Tramps'' is more like that book than it is like James Agee's gussied-up words in ''Let Us Now Praise Famous Men'' - with its Walker Evans photographs demonstrating statistics.
Mr. Emmet's photographs do not demonstrate or illustrate anything. They are integral to the story, words bringing readers to a scene, photographs taking us right in. The effect is electric because the scenes are mostly photographed from a distance, with the viewers outside. In the same way, Dale Maharidge and Michael Williamson's ''And Their Children After Them,'' the account of the children in the Agee-Evans book, now grown up, which won a Pulitzer Prize this year, rattles settled sensibilities and is 10 times more trenchant than its progenitor.
Will Tina Tindal, 13 years old and having finished fifth grade by the book's end, be a fifth-generation fruit picker? Talking to Mr. Emmet one day, she says she wants to be a teacher. With that wonderful sense of loyalty children develop and with both parents and teacher as models, she is torn and suddenly tempers her wish and says she wants to be a fruit picker. And we wish she wouldn't.
The book ends with Luther Tindal, then 44, about to die from tuberculosis or cancer. He has both. And if we have failed to realize how the Tindals are entangled in defeat even as they turn common human threads into a kind of majesty, we finally know that while this world may not rob them of their majesty, it does rob them of their life.
Photos: Left, Luther and Linda Tindal n Fort Pierce, Fla, 1986. right, Calvin Tinald and his nephew Shannon in Loxahatchee, Fla, 1981. (From ''Fruit Tramps'')
In 1988, Herman LeRoy Emmet's Fruit Tramps series was prominently featured in a 6-page spread in LIFE magazine.