Bay Area Photographer Showcases ‘The End of the Dream' on California Billboards

NBC Universal, Inc.

For the past year, a Bay Area photographer has been documenting how he believes California really looks these days, and now he's posting the results on billboards.

The artist calls it “The End of the Dream” and 14 have already gone up around the state, including some in Oakland.

“Since the gold rush in the 19th century, California has always represented so much hope and possibility and my fear is that, that dream has come to an end,” said Thomas Broening.

He’s been driving thousands of miles around the state, sleeping in his car and documenting three issues he believes are threatening California's survival: wildfires, drought and housing prices.

The idea was sparked by a visit to a place most people work hard to avoid.

 “I went to this encampment in Oakland called Wood Street and the things that I saw, the poverty was hard to believe and I looked up and the maze was there and the maze connects Oakland and Berkeley and San Francisco, San Francisco one of the wealthiest cities in the world,” said Broening.

Since then, he's snapped photo after photo depicting a world most don't want to see or think about.

But instead of sharing these images at exhibitions or in a book, Broening decided for a bigger medium -- public billboards.

“Maybe by looking at it, we can start doing something about it,” said Broening.

Eight of them have already gone up in Oakland, another six in Oroville and more will be popping up in Southern California in the coming weeks.

The images show a range of scenes, from makeshift homes on Bay Area streets, to what was left behind after our state's deadliest fires and even the current state of Lake Sonoma.

“Some of these pictures don't even look like earth, like where are we, when is this, they could have been taken a 100 years ago, a 100 years in the future,” said Broening.

Giving drivers, and anyone else who gets a glimpse, a lot to think about as we make decisions about California's future.

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