David Bacon Stories & Photographs

about David Bacon's work

Current Schedule
Book discussions and presentations
Photography exhibitions

Speeches and interviews

Illegal People
How Globalization Creates Migration
and Criminalizes Immigrants

In Illegal People Bacon explores the human side of globalization, exposing the many ways it uproots people in Latin America and Asia, driving them to migrate. At the same time, U.S. immigration policy makes the labor of those displaced people a crime in the United States. Illegal People explains why our national policy produces even more displacement, more migration, more immigration raids, and a more divided, polarized society.

Through interviews and on-the-spot reporting from both impoverished communities abroad and American immigrant workplaces and neighborhoods, Bacon shows how the United States' trade and economic policy abroad, in seeking to create a favorable investment climate for large corporations, creates conditions to displace communities and set migration into motion. Trade policy and immigration are intimately linked, Bacon argues, and are, in fact, elements of a single economic system.

In particular, he analyzes NAFTA's corporate tilt as a cause of displacement and migration from Mexico and shows how criminalizing immigrant labor benefits employers.

Bacon powerfully traces the development of illegal status back to slavery and shows the human cost of treating the indispensable labor of millions of migrants-and the migrants themselves-as illegal. Illegal People argues for a sea change in the way we think, debate, and legislate around issues of migration and globalization, making a compelling case for why we need to consider immigration and migration from a globalized human rights perspective.

"[I]ncisive investigation . . . Bacon’s timely analysis is as cool and competent as his labor advocacy is unapologetic. In mapping the political economy of migration, with an unwavering eye on the rights and dignity of working people, Bacon offers an invaluable corrective to America’s hobbled discourse on immigration and a spur to genuine, creative action." - review, Publisher's Weekly,

"Bacon, an award-winning photojournalist, labor organizer, and immigrant-rights activist, follows the lives of undocumented workers at the Woodfin Suites Hotel in California and a Smithfield meatpacking plant in North Carolina, who travel back and forth from Mexico to the U.S. He ties together interviews, personal histories, and political analysis to provide a vivid image of what life is like for workers with little rights or protections in an increasingly globalized economy." review, Vanessa Bush, Booklist

"David Bacon is the conscience of American journalism: an extraordinary social documentarist in the rugged humanist tradition of Dorothea Lange, Carey McWilliams, and Ernesto Galarza.." - Mike Davis


Communities Without Borders
Images and Voices from the World of Migration
by David Bacon
forewards by Carlos Muñoz Jr. and Douglas Harper

Cornell University/ILR Press, October, 2006

“When we finally arrived at my brother's house in the United States, I thought about how far I was from home in Mexico. I looked back, saw the sun setting, and thought about my father and what he might be doing. I thought, 'Why did I come so far, and how am I going to return?' Before I left my father asked me why I wanted to leave. He said he thought we would never see each other again. My brother told him not to worry and that he would return me in a year. . . . My father was right, because we never did see him again.”-Irma Luna recalls her experience of migration, from Communities without Borders

In his work of photojournalism and oral history, David Bacon documents the new reality of migrant experience: the creation of transnational communities. Drawing on his experience as a photographer and a journalist and also as a former labor organizer, Bacon portrays the lives of the people who migrate between Guatemala and Mexico and the United States. He takes us inside these communities and illuminates the ties that bind them together, the influence of their working conditions on their families and health, and their struggle for better lives. Communities without Borders makes an urgent appeal for understanding the human reality that should inform our national debate over immigration.

“David Bacon is a nonfiction Steinbeck, the foremost documentarist of the great human drama of the borderlands.”—Mike Davis, author of Planet of Slums

“Communities without Borders provides powerful images and stories of the immigrant experience in Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States. This is a timely work that contributes to our understanding of the impact of globalization, the human dimension of migration, and the poignant struggles of working people. It is an important book for labor and community leaders, for scholarsand students, and for all who care about social justice.”-Kent Wong, UCLA

“David Bacon demonstrates remarkable breadth, insight, and creativity through his diverse documentary photography, oral history, and writing. The story he tells of migration communities—and the stories he lets those communities tell through their own eloquent words, on their own terms—is one of universal importance grounded in the specifics of a range of experiences. This book stands as a model for careful and responsible documentary work and provides much-needed depth and nuance to one of the central issues of our time.”—Tom Rankin, Director, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University



The Children of NAFTA
Labor Wars on the US/Mexico Border
by David Bacon

University of California Press, 2004

Hijos del Libre Comercio

El Viejo Topo, Barcelona, 2005
order information - Spanish edition

"Built from vivid, firsthand accounts, this is an extraordinary mural portrait of a border that few North Americans know anything about: of a working class fighting for survival on the unequal playing ground of NAFTA, where labor rights are almost always dishonored and where activists often end up blacklisted, jailed, or even desparecido. Bacon wonderfully coveys the passion, urgency and historical importance of the daily struggles to humanize the cold ultra-capitalist world of NAFTA."--Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles

"David Bacon has put a human face on the devastating impact of NAFTA on workers here and abroad. Our economic future as a nation depends on the knowledge contained in this book. A must read! ¡Si Se Puede!"--Dolores Huerta, Co-founder, United Farm Workers Union, President, Dolores Huerta Foundation

"David Bacon represents the fine old tradition of American working-class journalism at its best. He's gone everywhere--from tiny Mexican villages to the baking hot fields of California agribusiness--to get the real lowdown on NAFTA's effects on the blue collar people who hardly ever get a hearing in the mainstream press."--Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed

Living Under the Trees

Photographs and Oral Histories by David Bacon
Community Dialogues Organized by the Indigenous Front of Binational Organizations and California Rural Legal Assistance

Triqui migrants from Oaxaca, Mexico work in the fields of prestigious wineries in Alexander Valley and at night return to tent settlements made of plastic-covered bamboo.

In Del Mar, one of San Diego's most affluent suburbs, Oaxacan migrants harvest tomatoes, strawberries, oranges, and avocados and, until recently, lived on a hillside within sight of a new housing development.

Purepecha farm workers from Michoacan pick lemons in Oxnard, while their families often live in a single room.

This combination of photography and oral history project documents indigenous farm worker communities in rural California, and those scattered on the edges of cities from San Diego to Santa Rosa.

It explores the difficult working conditions in the fields, the acute housing crisis in indigenous communities, and efforts to preserve and develop indigenous culture as a means of survival and self-expression.

Our Community in the Streets!
¡Nuestra comunidad en las calles!

Photographs by/Fotografías por David Bacon

Celebrating International Migrants Day and the solidarity of working people in our community/Celebrando el Día Internacional de Migrante Y la solidaridad de las y los obreros en nuestra comunidad

December 7, 2007 - January 31, 2008

Asian Resource Gallery
310 Eighth St.
Oakland, CA 94607

International Migrants Day Celebration/Celebración del Día Internacional del Migrante
Monday, December 17, 2007
6:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Participating organizations/Organizaciones participantes:
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy
Filipinos for Affirmative Action
Service Employees Union Locals 1877 and 24/7
Peoples Association of Workers and Immigrants
Oakland Sin Fronteras
Sponsored by/Patrocinado por East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation
With support from/Con el apoyo de City of Oakland Arts & Culture, Alameda Co. Arts, & East Bay Community Foundation

January 30, 2007 - University of California, Santa Cruz
February 7 - University of Massachusetts, Boston, MA
February 8 - Harvard Trade Union Program, Cambridge, MA
February 9 - Murphy Labor Institute, CUNY, New York City

The Secretary of Culture of the Municipal Government of Mexico City and the Museum of Mexico City announce the exhibition

Todos Somos Migrantes/
We Are All Migrants

"I didn't cross the border. The border crossed me."

Museum of Mexico City
Pino Suarez 30
Centro Historico
Mexico City

Opening: August 1, 2006, 10AM
Opening concert with Guillermo Velazquez and Los Leones de la Sierra de Xichu, 7PM

Featuring photos from "Communities Without Borders" by David Bacon and his photos from the huge Los Angeles and San Francisco demonstrations for immigrant rights

La Secretaria de Cultura del Gobierno del Distrito Federal y el Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico tienen el honor de invitarlo a la inauguracion de la exposicion

Todos Somos Migrantes/
We Are All Migrants

"Yo no cruce a la frontera. La frontera me cruzo a mi."

Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico

Pino Suarez 30
Centro Historico
Mexico DF

Inauguracion: 1 de agosto, 10 de la mañana
Concierto inaugural con Guillermo Velazquez y Los Leones de la Sierra de Xichu, 19:00

Con fotos de "Comunidades sin Fronteras" por David Bacon, y sus imagenes de las gigantescas marches en Los Angeles y San Francisco a favor de los derechos de los inmigrantes

Oil for Freedom
Iraq’s Oil Workers and their Union

Photographs by David Bacon

Following the fall of Saddam Hussein, oil workers in Basra reorganized one of Iraq's oldest unions, faced the occupation's prohibition on collective bargaining in the public sector, and forced US contractor KBR to leave the oil districts. They helped workers organize in other industries, and defended Iraq's oil against the threat of privatization. This photodocumentary project shows them at work on the rigs and in the refineries, their union and its leaders, and their life at home with their families.

Starting early this year, the LA Harbor will host this exhibition of photographs of Basra's oil and longshore workers.

December 1 - January 31, 2007
AFL-CIO Lobby Gallery
815 Sixteenth St. NW
Washington, DC

September 1 - December 31, 2006
United Teachers Los Angeles
3033 Wilshire Blvd. #10
Los Angeles, CA

June 1 - August 31
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, DC 36
514 Shatto Place, 3rd Floor
Los Angeles, CA

May 1 - May 31
UCLA Downtown Labor Center
675 South Park View.
Los Angeles, CA

March 1 - March 31
ILWU Local 63

350 W. 5th Street
San Pedro, CA 90731

January 31 - February 28
United Steel Workers (formerly PACE) Local 675
1200 E. 220th St.
Carson, CA 90745

Opening Reception: January 31, 2006, 7:30 PM

The show will travel to other unions, labor studies centers, schools, and even plant gates, and will provide space for class visits and community discussions.

Sponsored by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, USW Local 675, United Teachers Los Angeles, ILWU Local 63, Diane Middleton Foundation, the Harry Bridges Institute, and US Labor Against the War (LA).

migrantes en la frontera
con estados unidos

fotografia de david bacon

exposicion en la universidad autonoma de la ciudad de mexico

migrants on the border with the united states
photographs by david bacon

exhibition at the
autonomous university of mexico city
october 13 through december 14, 2005

entrevista con david bacon en la jornada

opening reception, october 18
inauguración:  martes, 18 de octubre, a las 19:00 hrs
plantel del valle

13 al 28 de octubre
plantel del valle
san lorenzo num. 290
col. del valle, del. benito juarez

7 al 25 de noviembre
plantel san lorenzo tezonco
prolongacion san isidro num. 151
col. san lorenzo tezonco, del. iztapalapa

1 al 14 de diciembre
plantel iztapalapa
calzada iztapalapa s/n
col. lomas de zaragoza, del. iztapalapa
entrada libre



photographs and stories by David Bacon © 1990-

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