Oakland photographer puts images of California decline on billboards around state

OAKLAND (KPIX) — Some say California is dying, submerged in a housing crisis and devastated by year-round wildfires.

An Oakland-based photographer just paid for billboards in Oakland to highlight the crises California faces. He’s displaying his own photos on the billboards.

“I’ve been shooting my whole life, since I was 15,” said photographer Thomas Broening. “When I’m shooting, I’m looking for something out of the ordinary.”

He’s traveled around the world for his work and says there’s no place better than California.

“I love California. I raised four children here,” he said.

But he says that, in the past decade, the Golden State has lost its identity.

“California is in a real crisis. We used to be this magical, fantasy place but now, it’s turned to more of a dystopia,”  Broening said.

He keyed on three issues in his billboard series: homelessness, drought and wildfires.

“The project is called ‘The End of the Dream,'” Broening said.

He used thousands of dollars of his own money to buy six billboards in Oroville last month. He paid for eight more billboards in Oakland for the next four weeks and he said he’ll buy six more in Southern California next month.

“There’s no text, there’s no call to action. These are simply photographs of the problems,” Broening said.

He says he’s not pushing any political agenda, not trying to blame anyone or any party.

“Before we can talk about solutions, we need to acknowledge it. I really feel like, in California, we’re in denial. We’re thinking this will pass. Eventually, the water’s gonna come. The fires are going to die out. People will find homes. And if we ignore it, nothing gets done. I think it’s ’cause we don’t see it. We become desensitized to it,”  Broening said.

He says he doesn’t have any solutions but he does want the billboard images to make people feel uncomfortable.

His hope is that the photos will encourage people to do something to fix the problems.

Broening would like to eventually buy more billboards in more cities. If you want to learn more about his project there’s a website: http://TheEndOfTheDream.com 

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