Sleeping on the Streets

OAKLAND, CA – 11FEBRUARY14 -Pannizzo gives food and a couple of dollars to John, a homeless man in his camp beside the freeway.
Sleeping on the Streets, David Bacon

There is no recovery from the economic crisis for the people who live on the streets. Every night on the sidewalks and under the freeways people are hungry and sleep where they can spread a blanket, and Vinny Pannizzo left the university when he couldn’t turn away.
For fifteen years, every night he bags food and then distributes it from his van to homeless people in Oakland.
These photographs provide a reality check on life for the poorest people in U.S. cities. Maybe they will help create more Vinny Pannizzos.

OAKLAND, CA – 11FEBRUARY14 – A homeless woman sleeps on a bus bench, while another homeless man watches over her.
OAKLAND, CA – 11FEBRUARY14 – A shelter on the sidewalk, under the freeway.
OAKLAND, CA – 11FEBRUARY14 – After 15 years, Pannizzo can’t understand why there are more hungry people than ever.
OAKLAND, CA – 11FEBRUARY14 – Bill Davidson is a veteran of the war in Iraq, but has no home or job.
OAKLAND, CA – 11FEBRUARY14 – Sleeping under a bail bond sign, next to a trash bin.
OAKLAND, CA – 11FEBRUARY14 – Wade Williams, a homeless man, sleeps on a bus bench. He lost his home to a foreclosure.
OAKLAND, CA – 11FEBRUARY14 – Jeremy and Kelly live with their dog under a bridge by the estuary, at the edge of the bay. Vinny Pannizzo brings them food every night from his van on his rounds.

Q&A with David Bacon

Photography is…

“Photography was not meant as art to adorn walls, but rather to make obvious the ancestral cruelty of man against man, the greatness of his love for things and everyday things.” This is a quote from the great Mexican street photographer Nacho López. Alexandr Rodchenko said somthing similar – “We must take photographs from every angle but the navel, until all those points of view are recognised.”

Photography and writing…

Photography and writing are powerful when they are combined to give us a broader understanding and context – a deeper reality check. Separating photography and words often means depoliticizing photographs.

Who left the biggest impression on you?

Otto Hagel and Hansel Meith, two photographers who fled Germany in the 1930s, and then became committed documentary photographers of the social movements of the 1930s and 40s in California. They believed that photographers should be participants in the movements and lives of the people they document.


David Bacon ( is a California writer and documentary photographer. A former union organizer, today he documents labor, the global economy, war and migration, and the struggle for human rights. His latest book, The Right to Stay Home (Beacon Press, 2013), documents forced migration and the criminalization of migrants. A previous book, Communities Without Borders (Cornell/ILR Press, 2006), documents migration through the eyes and words of transnational communities.


PRIVATE [ photography & writing ]

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One Comment

  1. David, thank you for sharing this photography documentary with me. Thank you for making this. We are not doing enough in this country to help our homeless population, or our homeless children. I would like to schedule an appt to speak by phone regarding this and my book that I am writing. Contact me by email or phone:; 805-886-2779
    Stay in touch! Best, Evie

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