Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Thematic Photographic - Flowers

"Thematic Photographic" - Carmi at the blog Written, Inc. presents a weekly themed photographic challenge. This week's theme is FLOWERS. Check in and see who else contributes photos based on this idea.

"A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose," said Gertrude Stein, famously, in her 1913 poem Sacred Emily.

But what do you get when a rose becomes a commodity?

California's cut flower industry began in the 1870s in Ventura County. Today, California is the state with the largest cut flower industry in the U.S.

Even so, the heyday of the California industry is over. 79% of the cut flowers sold in the United States are imported from other countries - and 59% of those come from the South American country of Colombia.

If you go to Los Angeles' downtown wholesale flower market, you'll find wonders. Among them are roses from Colombia - in all shapes and colors.

As a commodity, the rose has been tweaked and manipulated to appeal to as many market segments as possible. There are even tinted roses in lime green or bright blue.

The Colombian rose industry employs around 80,000 workers. 80% of them are women. They prune, harvest, sort, and package the flowers. Workers are affected by exposure to herbicides and pesticides, with symptoms like nausea, rash, and impaired vision. Long time exposure has been linked to birth defects, miscarriages and neurological problems. They also suffer from repetitive stress injuries, heat stress, and other ailments.

The ecological cost of the industry is encroachment of cultivated lands on native forests, and the effects of widespread use of herbicides and pesticides, which pollute rivers and contaminate cultivated vegetables and cows' milk.

The roses are wrapped in corrugated paper, packed together in space-saving square bundles in boxes, and flown by air to Los Angeles, where they end up here, in the Los Angeles flower market.

Just like so many widgets, products, units, items and other cheap junk that flood our modern lives.

Have we really done this to what was once the queen of flowers?


smalltownme said...

My son saw "rainbow" roses in Ecuador. I have no idea how they got that way.

Anonymous said...

The first photo reminded me of a produce stand. As it turns out, it wasn't such an off guess.
I had no idea that flowers had become such an industry, exploiting workers and land.

CaShThoMa said...

I had no idea.

JCK said...

I've got to get down to the LA Flower Market someday... Oh, these photos are luscious!

Unknown said...

Very sad.
Love the shots though. Would be so happy to shoot those flowers in their cardboard.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

It is sad to know what becomes of the roses. And still they are so lovely. They bear their torment so well.

Sue said...

The photos are so beautiful...the story somewhat sad.

carmilevy said...

I. Love. This.

I've never even thought about roses in the context of a commodity. But you're so right: There has to be a market, somewhere, that ensures they make it to our neighborhood florist.

Thank you for taking us upstream, so to speak, for an eye-opening look. These are delightfully unique.


Where is the flower market located? I would like to visit sometime.

Cassie said...

Wow, shocking treatment... I had no idea...
But, this does remind me a bit of the flowermarket in Amstersdam, If anyone wants to see literally millions of tulips, You have to check out Keaukenhoff Gardens outside of Amsterdam in Lille. It is as inspiring as these pics, but done with more moral conscience.

Jason, as himself said...

SO fabulous!

Jason, as himself said...

I mean the photos. Not the bad stuff.

lbc flower delivery philippines said...

Gorgeous flowers! Wish I can also have all of that. Hahahaha... but honestly, I love flowers! Thanks for sharing this post. Keep posting!