Border Communities and their Social Justice Movements Focus of New Exhibition at San Francisco Main Library


Family gathers at border wall to meet with loved ones


More Than a Wall features photographs by David Bacon that explore the border region of the United States and Mexico and the communities that call it home

On view at the Main Library, Jewett Gallery, February 12 – May 22, 2022


SAN FRANCISCO – For photographer David Bacon, the border region between the United States and Mexico is a land marked by life and death. Each year, at least 300-400 people die trying to cross into the U.S. in search of a better future for themselves and their families. The border is also bustling with life. The once-small towns of Ciudad Juárez and Tijuana are now home to millions of people, many of whom make up the industrial workforce of Southern California, South Texas and New Mexico. Taken over a period of 30 years, Bacon’s photographs and accompanying text panels, which are presented in English and Spanish, in San Francisco Public Library’s exhibition More Than a Wall explore all aspects of the border region and its vibrant social history. 

The photographs trace the social movements in border communities, factories and fields. According to Bacon, “These photographs provide a reality check, allowing us to see the border region as its people, with their own history of movements for rights and equality.  By providing this, the exhibition seeks to combat anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican hysteria, and develop an alternative vision in which the border can be a region where people live and work in solidarity with each other."

The photographs were taken in collaboration with Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations (FIOB), the Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras and California Rural Legal Assistance. They are featured in a new bilingual book, More Than a Wall, published by the Colegio de la Frontera Norte in Tijuana.  Bacon's photographic work is housed in the David Bacon Archive in the Special Collections of the Green Library at Stanford University.

Gaspar Rivera-Salgado, Mixtec professor at UCLA and co-founder of the FIOB, says, “David organically integrates his photographic work with the testimonies of the actors themselves, and provides thorough analysis of critical points in the lives of workers and communities on both sides of the border. The effect is shocking.  But he also describes a future with full sharpness that seems complex and full of possibilities - possibilities we may still not fully imagine.”

The exhibition opens on February 12 in the Main Library’s Jewett Gallery, which is located on the lower level. The public is invited to the opening event, The Media, Art and the Border, which will feature Bacon in conversation with San Francisco artists and photographers about the way the border is represented in media and the arts.  Among the participants will be Juan Gonzales, founder of El Tecolote and director of the journalism program at City College of San Francisco; Kim Komenich, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and photojournalism teacher at San Francisco State University, Mabel Jimenez, border photographer and former photo editor for El Tecolote, Brooke Anderson, movement photographer and Juan Fuentes, a celebrated artist and cultural activist.

February 12, 1 p.m., Main Library, 100 Larkin Street, Latino/Hispanic Community Room
Per the City’s Health Order, masks are required at all times in the Library.

Caption: Tijuana, Baja California Norte — Catalina Cespedes, Carlos Alcaide and Teodolo Torres greet Florita Galvez, who is on the other side. The family came from Santa Monica Cohetzala in Puebla to meet at the wall. © David Bacon

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Kate Patterson, San Francisco Public Library
(415) 557-4252 /

January 14, 2022