May 7, 2019

Stanford Libraries acquires the archive of photojournalist David Bacon

COACHELLA, CA - 2007 -A crew of farm workers harvests romaine lettuce for Pamela Packing Company near Mecca, in the Coachella Valley. (c) David Bacon

Stanford—CA, Stanford Libraries has added the work of David Bacon, a Bay Area-based photographer, author, political activist and union organizer, to its photography collection. Bacon has been documenting the lives of farm workers since 1988, and his archive joins a robust and growing collection of photography archives at Stanford. 

“David Bacon’s career as a photojournalist and author represents working class history and social justice movements that transformed political landscapes internationally,” said Ignacio Ornelas Rodriguez, Ph.D., a library specialist at Stanford who worked closely with Bacon on the acquisition of his archive. “David’s work highlights communities that are often ignored by mainstream media and brings them from the margins of society to the forefront.” 

Bacon has dedicated most of his career to documenting labor history. His work captures critically important aspects of the civil rights movements and consists of film negatives, gelatin silver prints, digital images, digital prints, and audio recordings and files. During the month of May, The Progressive, a national publication devoted to amplifying voices of under-represented groups, will feature a multi-part series focusing on Bacon's photography and work globally. Part One documents Bacon's visit to Iraq to determine how workers were faring in the wake of the 2003 U.S. invasion.  

After 61 days on their picket lines, Richard Mason, a union member at the Saint Francis Hotel, celebrates the end of the strike. San Francisco, 2018, (c) David Bacon

Bacon was a factory worker and union organizer for two decades with the United Farm Workers and the International Ladies Garment Workers. “David’s photographs document the changing conditions in the workforce, the impact of the global economy, war and migration, and the struggle for human rights,” said Roberto Trujillo, associate university librarian and director of Stanford Libraries’ Special Collections. 

Bacon’s images complement the contents of the Bob Fitch Archive that contain iconic images from the civil rights movements of the mid to late 20thcentury. According to Trujillo, the Bacon and Fitch archives will provide scholars and students access to nearly 400,000 images spanning the history of labor movements in the United States.  

In addition to his photography, Bacon has written several books and numerous articles about migration, including:  The Children of NAFTA (University of California Press, 2004); Communities Without Borders (ILR/Cornell University Press, 2006); Illegal People – How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press, 2008); and The Right to Stay Home (Beacon Press, 2013). His most recent book of photographs and oral histories, In the Fields of the North/En Los Campos del Norte, was published by the University of California Press and the Colegio de la Frontera Norte (Tijuana), 2017.

Bacon’s photography has been exhibited widely in the United States, Mexico, and in Europe, including at the Oakland Museum of California; the University of California at Berkeley, Los Angeles, and Merced; the National Civil Rights Museum; DeSaisset Museum, Irene Carlson Gallery of Photography; Queens College; the Church Center of the United Nations; the Museum of Mexico City; the National Autonomous University of Mexico; the Autonomous University of Mexico City; IG Metall Galerie in Frankfurt; Galerie Unterhaus in Passau; and the Kulture AXE in Vienna.

Last month, Stanford Libraries launched a Photography Initiative, which is dedicated to creating a strong photographic collection that represents the archives of photographers across a broad range of photographic practices including fine arts, documentary, and photojournalism, among others. 

“The David Bacon archive is a wonderfully rich teaching and research collection,” said Trujillo. “David’s approach to become part of the communities he documents not only gives students a unique first-hand account of the human stories comprising these larger movements, but allows for those stories to continue to be shared and studied.”

SACRAMENTO, CA - 1994 - Dolores Huerta. (c) David Bacon

Dolores Huerta, American labor leader and civil rights activist who, with Cesar Chavez, is a co-founder of the United Farm Workers, noted the significance of Bacon’s archive finding a home at Stanford. 

“The preservation of David’s work is critical to our history,” said Huerta who is also president and founder of the Dolores Huerta Foundation.  

“I applaud Stanford’s continued commitment to archive the history of Mexican and Mexican Americans in the United States. David Bacon’s archive acquired by Stanford will assure that our history is not lost.”

The David Bacon Archive is not yet processed. Researchers interested in accessing the collection should contact the Department of Special Collections. Once the collection is processed, Stanford Libraries intends to build an online exhibition of Bacon's Archive, which will be accessible to all with an internet connection.