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David Bacon

David Bacon

A former union organizer for 30 years, David Bacon has photographed documentary projects about labor, the global economy, war and migration, and the struggle for human rights in countries around the world including Iraq, the Philippines, Honduras, Mexico, and the United States.

Enjoy our series featuring work from David’s archives, “The Social Justice Photography of David Bacon,” launching May 2019 and featured below. 


About his work David has written:

I saw my first immigration raid long before I became a photographer. I was an organizer for the United Farm Workers in the Coachella Valley. One morning I drove out to a grove of date palms to talk with the palmeros working high in the trees. As I pulled my old white Valiant (the only kind of car the union had) down a row between the palms, I saw a green Border Patrol van. The workers I’d talked with the night before in the union hall were all staring at the ground, handcuffed behind their backs.

I felt helpless to stop the inexorable process in which they were loaded into the van. I chased it to the holding center in El Centro, two hour's drive south, but then stood outside the barbed wire, wondering what I could do to help the families left behind. It was one of the watershed experiences of a lifetime. There were other immigration raids during the time I worked for the UFW, often and by no coincidence during the times workers were organizing.

It was easy to see how detentions and deportations are not just violations of human rights, and cause devastating pain for families, but are a weapon in a war to keep immigrants from organizing.

I carry my camera as a tool to help stop this abuse, and to take photographs that will help people organize. Part of the effort is to give personality and presence to the people involved.


His latest book, In the Fields of the North / En los campos del norte (COLEF / UC Press, 2017) includes over 300 photographs and 12 oral histories of farm workers. Other books include The Right to Stay Home (Beacon Press, 2013), and Illegal People (Beacon Press, 2008), which discuss alternatives to forced migration and the criminalization of migrants. Communities Without Borders (Cornell/ILR Press, 2006) includes stories from transnational migrant communities, and The Children of NAFTA (UC Press, 2004) is an account of worker resistance on the U.S.-Mexico border in the wake of the trade agreement.

Pieces by David Bacon:


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Copyright David Bacon, Courtesy Special Collections, Stanford Libraries

Iraq had one of the most radical labor movements in the Middle East before the reign of Saddam Hussein. After the U.S. invasion in 2003 Bacon traveled to Iraq to learn what had become of the workers. He did not anticipate what he saw. Read more

Dispatches

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David Bacon

The H-2A Farm Worker Program creates a pipeline of cheap, disposable labor. Read more

Magazine

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David Bacon

An estimated 40,000 to 50,000 marchers ventured out to show support for the resistance. Read more

Dispatches

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David Bacon

Migration poses challenging questions about who is a citizen. These photographs aim to help break the mold that keeps us from seeing this reality. Read more

Dispatches

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David Bacon

A growing movement is visible in the streets challenging Yakima’s old power relations. Read more

Magazine

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David Bacon

The movement has won the ability to meet with detainees inside the prison, been able to offer sanctuary, and found legal help for families. Read more

Magazine

In a recent survey of CA domestic workers, 76% work more than 45 hours a week, and 24-hour shifts are common. Read more

Magazine

By David Bacon "The products coming in from the U.S. had government support and subsidies. Mexicans couldn’t compete with that. People see migration as their only option to survive.” Read more

Dispatches 1 Comments

Mexico tribunal takes up the plight of migrants made worse by NAFTA. Read more

Dispatches

By not asking the right questions, U.S. immigration policy is condemned to a kind of punitive venality, making rational political decisions virtually impossible. Read more

Dispatches

Seven hundred workers have died in factory fires in Bangladesh since 2005, including the 112 who burned to death or jumped to their deaths at the Tazreen factory on November 24th. Now hundreds more bodies are being pulled from the rubble of the R... Read more

Op-Eds

The fire that killed more than 100 workers at the clothing factory in Bangladesh was an act of industrial homicide, which must not be tolerated. Read more

Op-Eds

Seventy years ago this week, nothing moved in San Francisco for four days. Read more

Op-Eds

Most Iraqi workers hoped the fall of Saddam Hussein would liberate them, enabling them to recover their lost rights. Read more

Magazine