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Rick Nahmias’ Photography exhibit, “The Migrant Project,” is currently on display at The Sacramento Railroad Museum.
“The Migrant Project” has toured from gallery to gallery for eight years and was transformed into a book two years ago. However, The Sacramento Railroad Museum might be its most unlikely stop.
Initially, Nahmias sought out the Sacramento Capitol Museum to display the photos to the public. Due to the Capitol being booked, Nahmias and his colleagues had to think outside the box. Nahmias’ colleagues are very committed to his message and his work, which is why he trusted their proposition of the Railroad Museum.
The museum’s old produce car has been converted into “The Migrant Project” gallery, and Nahmias said that he was convinced it would work at first sight. Because of numerous labor issues associated with the railroad’s history, Nahmias said he can see a common ground for the project, but acknowledges a disconnect with museum-goers’ motives.
Nahmias is an artist with an activist edge, and his exhibit presents an agricultural dilemma, what he refers to as a doom-and-gloom scenario. Most railroad enthusiast go the museum to see the mammoth remains of a golden era relics that encapsulate the grandeur of Manifest Destiny and the American Dream. Nahmias’ exhibit brings some politics and forethought to museum, one of the stable staple of Sacramento.
“The Migrant Project” traces Nahmias’ eight trips across 50 cities throughout California’s agricultural heartland spanning a full year. Initially, the project was self-funded, but received outside funding from advocacy groups when he presented his midway progress. Food is Nahmias’ issue, and he said he feels viscerally connected. His agenda is to give people the sight to see the human struggle behind food: to draw a line between the harvesting of a crop and its last stop on a dinner plate.
One of Nahmias’ most-recognized photos at the exhibit is “Tomato Tokens,” a photo of a farm laborer’s callused hands exposing the uncommon currency. One "tomato token" is given to a worker every time he or she presents two 25-pound pails of tomatoes. On the day of the taken photo, tokens were worth 95 cents. Nahmias recalled a moment on one of his last trips across the state when he discoved a migrant farmer hunched over on a beat-up truck tailgate clenching his tomato tokens and vigorously eating a taco before get back to work. Nahmias’ goal is to foster some compassion and educate viewers on the engine that drives California. “The Migrant Project” is in recognition of the 1.1 million California farm laborers.
Nahmias said his overall theme with his bodies of work is “bridging us with them.” Currently, he’s working on his new project, “The Golden States of Grace: Prayers of the Disinherited,” which covers how people find their faith through unorthodox examples from religious groups, such as Zen Buddhists in prison. The collective work of more than 100 photos and personal essays will be presented is his new book, which is due out in September.
“The Migrant Project” is currently on display at The Sacramento Railroad Museum. General admission tickets are $9, and kids' are $4. Admission is free on March 27 in honor of Caesar Chavez and will include a book signing event by Rick Nahmias and forum by the Fair Food Project Organization.