Oakland photographer raising awareness on issues like climate change through billboard campaign

An Oakland photographer is hoping to raise awareness about climate change and the housing crisis through a series of billboards.

Thomas Broening said he spent the past year and a half traveling through California, taking pictures of areas impacted by drought, fire, and homelessness. He put those images on eight billboards in Oakland, six in Oroville, and plans to have more next month in Los Angeles. He calls the campaign, ‘The End of the Dream.’

"I think California is in real trouble," Broening said. "We have these droughts that last for months and months and these fires that burn out of control millions of acres. And then we have, in every single city in California, we have these homeless encampments unimaginable anywhere else in the country."

A billboard in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood shows a picture of a homeless encampment only a few miles away on Wood Street. Another billboard in Rockridge shows a burned out building in Plumas County, destroyed by the Dixie Fire. Another sign along Piedmont Avenue shows a dry Folsom Lake.

Broening said, "With each billboard there’s no text. There’s no call to action. I think the first thing we need to do is look at the problem. That’s my goal. Just have people look at it."

We found a lot of people looking.

"Me and my friends have actually noticed the billboards," said Oakland resident Jonathan Foltz.

Foltz said the images of homelessness impact him the most, especially since many of the pictures were taken here in the Bay Area. "When you see people living out on the streets and you know about the struggle here in Oakland, that a lot of people come out here to California because it’s sunny and it’s warm and you can survive, but you know it’s a real problem."

He said the pictures speak for themselves, but a few others we talked to were confused by the lack of text.

"It’s hard to react to something when I don’t know what it’s trying to say," said Jyen Wong from Oakland.

Broening said his goal is to have his pictures on 100 billboards up and down the state and hopes this project can inspire real change.

"I just want my children to live in the same California that I was able to. And right now that’s not possible," said Broening.

You can see more pictures and learn more about "The End of the Dream" at Broening’s website: www.theendofthedream.com