I want people who are looking at these photographs to understand what it feels like to do this work. Many of these jobs are physically very demanding and so I want to show that; what the physical requirement is of working, for instance, bent over. I tried picking strawberries myself and I lasted two weeks. That was it. I couldn't do it because I couldn't bend over and endure the pain all day every day and come back every morning for more.
Since the 1980s, David Bacon has been photographing the daily lives of farm workers in California, Washington State, and Mexico. He has worked closely with organizations that have advocated for farm workers over the decades such as the United Farm Workers (UFW), California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), and Familias Unidas por la Justicia, whose members are almost entirely indigenous Mexican farm workers. Bacon captures the arduous labor of agricultural field work and the ongoing struggle between workers and large agribusiness corporations over working conditions, wages, and benefits.
The lives of most farm workers are governed by the growing seasons. Their bodies must be in superior physical condition and endurance is essential in order to keep up with the fast pace of work. Accidents are common, tools used in the fields are sharp, and the repetitive work often causes injuries; many farm workers eventually go on long-term disability. Workers are tested daily by the climate, enduring rain, extreme cold, and heat. Housing is often challenging or nonexistent for these workers and their families and for those who are in the United States under the H-2A guest-worker program there are many restrictions upon their lives.