Unpublished letter to San Francisco Chronicle
Thanks for the great article about the important exhibition of Cathy Murphy's photos at San Francisco State ["Struggles for power preserved in pictures," San Francisco Chronicle, May 20, 2013]. As a scholar of social justice posters, I know that many of these photos were the image seed for powerful labor art within the movement. But they have also been used for forces less concerned with progressive change. In 1993 Apple Computer released a series of "Think Different" posters featuring iconic iconoclasts, Cesar Chavez among them (image below).* That prompted Mary Bergan, then President of the California Federation of Teachers, to issue a three page condemnation. She reamed the campaign for twisting Chavez' message for corporate greed:
I don't know if Cathy took this photograph** (it's very similar to the one in your review) but no art is neutral, and relies on social forces to make it work. Struggles for power are, indeed, preserved in pictures - and archives. Thank you Cathy Murphy, and thank you Labor Archives and Research Center.
*Apple did secure the rights to the image from the estate of Cesar Chavez, fee unknown.