Introduction to the David Bacon Photography Archive


The David Bacon archive is a wonderfully rich teaching and research collection. David’s approach to become part of the communities he documents not only provides 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.

Acquired in the winter of 2019, the David Bacon Photography Archive is one of the Stanford Libraries’ largest collections of documentary photography. With a focus on labor and social justice it is a primary resource of great value to Stanford’s teaching and research programs. The archive is extensive, encompassing some 200,000 images and including original film negatives, color transparencies, selected prints, and digital files.

A union organizer for two decades, David Bacon has been a social activist his entire adult life. In the mid-1980s, he began working as an independent photographer and journalist documenting the lives and social movements of migrants, farm workers, and communities impacted by globalization. His work spans multiple geographic regions including the United States, Latin America, Asia, Europe, and Iraq with an emphasis on California and the US/Mexico Border.

Bacon’s photographs reveal powerful, often personal images of people on the margins of society. Farm workers bent double in the fields; hotel workers with hands cracked from harsh chemicals reaching into the depths of massive laundry machines; protestors erupting in the streets; migrant workers living under the trees in the hillsides outside of San Diego. Overarchingly, he has created a record of contemporary social reality and a photographic history of people, the global economy, and the struggle for human rights.

This Spotlight exhibition features both a digital companion to the forthcoming physical exhibition, Work & Social Justice: the David Bacon Photography Archive at Stanford— scheduled to debut in the Peterson & Munger Galleries in Cecil H. Green Library at Stanford in the Fall of 2020—as well as growing number of galleries, selected and curated by David Bacon.

This photography archive is our history.

  • Roberto G. Trujillo, Associate University Librarian, Director of Special Collections, and Charles & Frances Field Curator of Special Collections
  • Ben Stone, Associate Director of Special Collections and Curator for American & British History
Farm workers and their supporters march to protest the H2-A guestworker program and the death of Honesto Silva
Monica Atkins, of the Climate Justice Alliance in Jackson, MS, with Ramon Torres and Edgar Franks of Familias Unidas por la Justicia, on the land of the union's new cooperative, Tierra y Libertad
Manuel Buendia, a farm worker from Alamo in the state of Veracruz, Mexico, trims the tops of tobacco plants so that the leaves will grow larger
A farm worker from Thailand plants sweet pototoes on a small farm on Hawaii's big island
Farm workers at a nursery for apple seedlings
Local unions of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union shut down every port on the Pacific Coast to protest the WTO
Jesse Jackson, American Civil Rights activist, Baptist minister and politician