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Adam Perez

Emerson Collective Fellowship

Tells powerful stories of human tragedy and resilience in California’s agricultural heartland.

Adam Perez was born and raised in rural California, where his parents, who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico, made their living working in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley.

Today, much of Perez’s work as a storyteller explores the social, political, and economic landscape in which he grew up. He began his career as a visual journalist working for TIME magazine, where one of his first stories documented the impact of a severe drought on a town located just a few miles from where he grew up. He has continued to explore similar themes in his work ever since, telling powerful visual stories that shine a light on the overlapping effects of systemic racism, poverty, immigration, and climate change in California’s Central Valley, the agricultural heartland of California.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Latinx communities in California’s Central Valley faced health care inequities exacerbated by institutional racism. Now, the Central Valley finds itself experiencing an epic health care crisis. Among the most vulnerable are undocumented front-line workers and immigrant farmworkers, many from Mexico.

As an Emerson Collective Fellow, Perez will produce “Pandemic in the Heartland,” a photography and video project that seeks to reveal important truths about the systemic, preexisting inequities that have fueled the disproportionate spread of COVID-19 in the Central Valley. Using photographs and short-form videos, he will document efforts by residents, local organizations, and community leaders to contain the virus, while coping with the economic devastation in communities that were struggling long before the pandemic. Perez’s work will also highlight solutions—like expanding access to mobile clinics and translation services—that are making a transformative impact in the lives of rural California families.