Ballis was chosen as one of “75 people who made a difference,” when the Fresno Bee
published its 75th anniversary edition,October 17, 1997. His classic photo of Cesar Chavez
leading a farm worker march was featured on the cover and as the lead for the inside article. Read the story.
Ballis has twice received the “Way of Peace” award from the Fresno Center for Nonviolence, most
recently in 2001 “For your outstanding contributions as community activist and media expert; for your
loving care of BigMama Earth; and especially for your role as family storyteller for all of us
who express our dignity, courage and creativity through social action.”
The presenter said: “Our honoree has devoted his working life to providing courage and vision to his
allies. He has incarnated variously as labor journalist, water warrior, photographic and video maestro,
shamanic lover of Big Mama Earth and co-creator (along with his beloved Maia) of the SunMt experiment.
As an exemplar of impeccability and as a chronicler of the stories which enable us to see our own unity,
beauty and strength, he is a long time traveler on The Way of Peace.”
In 2008 Fresno Metro Ministry honored Elfie and Maia for their decades of peace and justice media. See the ceremony. Also in 2008, Elfie & Maia were cited for “Living the Dream” by the Fresno Martin
Luther King Committee. See the ceremony.
In 2008 high school students in Fresno produced a video of Elfie's life dance, "Warrior Morphs in Dancer." See the video.
Career and Recognitions
1943 to 1946, U.S. Marine radar technician in Pacific Islands. Read details.
1946-1950, University of Minnesota BA in journalism-political science
1950-1952, factory worker, reporter-editor for a string of 7 Chicago community newspapers.
1953 to 1966, editor of the Fresno Valley Labor Citizen, a weekly AFL-CIO newspaper, which won awards
for reportingexcellence from the Labor Press Association. During that period also worked part time as a farm
labor organizerand photographer of farm labor conditions and attempts of the workers to organize.
1956, began organizing for democratic control of western water projects with Paul Taylor PhD.
1964-66, researcher, organizer and photographer for Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
(SNCC) on civil rights in Mississippi and farm worker organizing in California.
1966-1975, free lance photographer and filmmaker producing social action docu-poems, photo-word
books and exhibits 1973, received a Giraffe award “sticking your neck out for the common good.” This was in recognition of
Ballis’ many years of work to obtain democratic and legal distribution of federally subsidized irrigation water.
1975, received “certificate of excellence” from American Institute of Graphics Arts for still photos in
exhibit of“Photography: Personal and Public.”
1975-1983, executive director of National Land for People which led a national campaign for democratic water
rights. Ballis had organized informally around this issue beginning in 1956. Executive director of People Food &
Land Foundation, non-profit research and public education on water issues. Duties included writing, editing and
researching for newsletter and legal, political reports.
1980-81, president of Rural America, a national federation local rural community action groups.
1983-present, executive director of People, Food and Land Foundation’s sole project, SunMt Environmental-Multimedia Center.In addition to giving direction to the center,
other duties include writing, editing, research and videoing.See details here and here.
1986-present, shamanic guide for clans of 4-6 persons in year-long
intense explorations of our individual and tribal spiritual roots. See details.
Filmology of docu-poems
1953: Began still and film photography with the progressive movement in The Great Valley.
I AM JOAQUIN, (1969) 16 minutes, epic poem of Chicano history in the Americas, with Luis Valdez and
the Teatro Campesino, winner of many prizes and still widely used in Chicano studies at universities. See clips. THE DISPOSSESSED, (1970) 33 minutes, American Indians struggle to regain their tribal lands from
large corporations,winner of many prizes and widely shown on German TV in early 70s. Won Mannheim
Film Fest,and Foothill College film award. See clips. THE OAKLAND FIVE, (1970) 60 minutes, Oakland Black community challenges racist school board. TOUGHEST GAME IN TOWN, (1972) 120 minutes, Santa Fe poor Chicanos organize to gain political
and economic power. THE RICHEST LAND, (1973) 23 minutes,glory and shame of California’s agriculture. See clips.
Shown at community organizing meetings and college classes.
1974-1997: Shifted energies to community and environmental organizing.
1998: Began videography.
SunMt CHRONICLES: (from 1998 to present) a weekly web review of local social justice actions with
video clips. See full archives.
ELFIE’S EYE, THE SECOND COMING, (1999) 18 minutes, Elfie returns to
filmmaking with a cinematic caress ofthe land he loves the mountainous
land trust he helped organize, winner of 2 awards and shown at another festival. See clips. O MATAKE OYASIN, (1999) 8 minutes, elder Indian wisdom on Alcatraz at unThanksgiving ceremony. ABORIGINAL PLASTíQUE, (1999) 11 minutes, young American musician fashions didgeredoo from
junk plastic pipe and brings forth echoes of Big Mama’s rhythms. ¡Sí SE PUEDE!, (2000) 10 minutes, Undocumented carpenters struggle for fair wages, respect and union
rights. Usedas organizing toll by union. See clips. AWAKEN, (2000) 30 minutes, 5 union plumbers join massive confrontation between corporate
globalization (WTO) and a broad street theater alliance of grassroots groups. Used by community groups
and college classes. See clips. SEEING OURSELVES, (2001) 15 minutes, collage of local social actions over one year in Fresno,
compiled from SunMt Chronicles, a weekly web magazine of 30 second clips. Shown at fund raising event
for local CommunityAlliance. GARBAGE TO LIBERATION, (2001) 55 minutes, World Bank-IMF protests in Washington, D.C.
told through work and words of puppet makers who create and giant puppet face from dumpster garbage. See clips. Shown at college classes. STOP ROLLING BLACKMAIL! (2001) 7 minutes, California Labor Federation organizes protests and
political actions against the energy companies gouging California electric power users. Used by California
Labor Federation to educate public. See clips here and here. ¡MUMIA! DEATH ROW POWER (2002) 10 minutes, at risk teenager finds visions of social and personal
transformationat San Francisco rally to save Mumia from the death chamber. See clips.Shown on cable TV
and college classes. Broadcast on channel 49, cable 9 Fresno, CA. ESPERANZA Y LUZ (2002) 8 minutes, misadventures of 2 Mexican women entering USA. See clip. Used
by theater company Teatro de la Tierra for promotion and education. THAT MORNING, (2002) 1 minute, reveals community anger and sadness after “That morning
they (police) shotmy boy.” See clips here and here and here. Shown at many community groups and
“Visualized Messagesin Motion Video festival.” MILITARY SHOWCASE, (2002) 1 minute, street theater by youth group upstages military recruitment day on
Fresno City College campus. See clip. Shown at Indymedia web circuit and“Visualized Messages
in Motion” Video Festival. MY PRAYER, (2002) 1 minute, a long time activist says her prayer is demonstrating for each step she takes
she touchesthe land. See clip. Shown as director’s choice at “Film Arts Film Festival.” 5 MINUTES FOR JUSTICE (2002) 5 minutes, Moving collage of above 3 docu-poems. One of 20
videos shown at professional DV conference. YOU GOT A RIGHT (2002) 6 minutes, youth actions to inspire other youths to social action.
Made to accompany college lecture Elfie does. See clips here and here..
Shown at Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Festival. MARCHING FOR DAVIS’ JUSTICE AUTOGRAPH (2002) 9 minutes, farm workers and supporters
march 150 miles in California Central Valley to get Gov. Davis to sign farm labor bill. Shown at United
Farm Workers convention and will be distributed through community groups and SunMt Chronicles. See clips. GAP SWEATSHOP PROTESTS, HOW FREE IS FREE SPEECH/, (2002) 26 minutes, 2+ years of
Fresno actions against GAP sweatshops protests, arrests, court cases, legal and political tangles. See clips. Broadcast on channel 49, cable 9 Fresno, CA. Shown in college classes. WAKE UP AMERICA (2002) 14 minutes, Fresno peace actions since 9-11 including Fresno
honored as outstanding local peace action group in California. Broadcast on channel 49, cable 9
Fresno, CA. See clips. INVISIBLE NO MORE (2003) 10 minutes, Fresno home care workers organize for $$$ and
respect. Union uses this video in its various forms for organizing. Broadcast on channel 49, cable 9
Fresno, CA. See clips here and here. MARTIN MARTIN (2003) 8 minutes, saying Martin Martin is not enough. We must do the work.
Broadcast on channel 49, cable 9 Fresno, CA. See clips here. STOP WAR • HAVE FUN, A MORAL RESPONSIBILITY (2003) 10 minutes, lyrical, passionate
rendition of gigantic peace march in San Francisco January 18, 2003. Broadcast on channel 49, cable 9
Fresno, CA. See clips here. MAGICAL EARTH DAY (2003) 8 minutes, learning and celebrating at Fresno Earth Day festivities.
See clips here. Broadcast on channel 49, cable 9 Fresno, CA.
1948, editor & co- founder of WILD FLAG PRESS, a University of Minnesota erratic student political publication.
1961, writer of JOE AND YOU, a history of Creamery workers Local 517.
1965, editor of PACIFIC SCENE, a monthly mag on California politics.
1966, photographer-writer of THE GRAPE STRIKE, first book on the grape strike with analysis of the heavily
1966, photographer-designer of ¡BASTA!, photo history of farm worker conditions and union actions including
the first march of 300 miles from Delano to Sacramento, California.
1967, photographer-editor-designer of CALIFORNIA SELF HELP SERVICE CORPS, a photo report on rural
community organizing throughout California.
1967, photographer-designer of CHICANISMO Mexican-Americans, photographic impressions of the people,
the culture and the movements. A book, portable display and a report for Manpower Opportunities Project and
the Ford Foundation.
1967, photographer-writer of STOCKTON’S ANNUAL SPRING STARVING, a report on farm workers waiting
1968, photographer-writer-designer of TULARE COUNTY COMMUNITY ACTION, a photo report on community organizations and their problems.
1968, photographer-writer-designer of NEW HOUSING FOR POOR FARM WORKERS, a report on self help
housing projects in San Joaquin Valley of California.
1969, photographer of IF I HAD A HAMMER, a photo report on self help housing for the rural poor in U.S.,
Canada and Puerto Rico.
1970, photographer-writer-co-designer of VISIT OAKLAND THE FRIENDLY CITY, large format, 11 by 17”
photo book on the politics of poverty in Oakland.
1970, photographer-writer-designer of THE DISPOSSESSED, script and study manual for film of the same name.
See filmology .
1971, photographer-writer-designer of COMMUNITY GROWTH THROUGH COMMUNITY CONTROL,
photo book on community organizing in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
1972, photographer-writer-designer of TODO O NADA, struggles of community organization in Santa Fe, New
Mexico. Companion piece to film THE TOUGHEST GAME IN TOWN. See filmology of docu-poems.
1973, photographer-writer-co-designer of FRESNO’S HIDDEN POVERTY, INNER CITY EAST, report on little
noticed poverty area.
1974, photographer of LANARE COMMUNITY CENTER, a report on rural community organization.
1975, photographer-writer-co-designer of THE SEED OF LIFE COOPERATION, a report on rural community
1975, photographer of FARMS FOR FAMILIES, a report on program to assist farm workers to become farmers.
1995, photographer-writer-co-designer of DREAM WHAT WE CAN BECOME AND REJOICE, SONAR LO
QUE PODEMOS Y GOZAR, a large format 11 by 17” bilingual photo book of farm worker poor conditions and
organizing efforts. See photos from book. Companion to multimedia exhibit of same name. See exhibits below.
1998-present, photographer-videoer-writer-co-designer of SunMt web site of over 600 pages on SunMt’s various
activities including environmental work, fine art and video docu-poems of social actions locally and nationally.
2000, photographer of REMEMBERING CESAR, photo book with essays by people who worked with Cesar
Chavez deceased leader of the United Farm Workers Union.
2002, photographer of BECOMING CESAR, a grammar school book of Cesar’s early life.
1964, contributor of one photo to the Eastman Kodak exhibit THE WORLD AND ITS PEOPLE.
1967, photographer-designer of portable exhibit entitled CHICANISMO, A companion to book if same name.
1972, one person multimedia show of stills and films entitled FOCUS STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM
at f22 gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Collection of black and white stills of community and union organizing.
Showings of films: THE DISPOSSESSED and I AM JOAQUIN.
1973, one person show of community and unions organizing photos entitled FREEDOM at Library Gallery of
California State University, Fresno.
1974, a two person show of Ballis photos and wife Maia paintings entitled FREEDOM at main Fresno County
1979, two photos in traveling exhibit entitled PHOTOGRAPHY: PERSONAL AND PUBLIC.
1984, two photos in permanent exhibit of History of California section of the Oakland Museum, Oakland, California.
1995, one person multimedia installation of photos, videos, music and smells entitled DREAM WHAT WE CAN
BECOME AND REJOICE, SONAR LO QUE PODEMOS SER Y GOZAR at California state
university, Northridge . See installation. See companion book.
1995, above installation at Centro Belles Artes in Fresno, California.
1997, photographer of 7 farm worker photos etched in granite at the foot of a Cesar Chavez statue
on California State University Fresno Peace Garden.
2000, photographer of a Cesar Chavez memorial at Fresno Adult School: a 4‘ x 6’ granite slab etched
with farmworker march photo and embedded in the entry wall. The caption,also etched in the slab: “
Dream What We CanBecome and Rejoice,Soñar Lo Que Podemos Ser y Gozar. See installation.
2002, photographer of farm workers on granite etched plaque honoring braceros,
Mexicans who worked as indentured servants in the U.S. 1942-1964. Installed in Fresno County
Courthouse Park. See installation.
2005, November 1- 2006, May 1, "Dream..." installation Boalt Hall, UC Berkeley. See details.