Ken Light

Adjunct Professor/Photo Director  |   510-642-4825  |   E-Mail

Ken Light is curator of the Center for Photography and freelance documentary photographer. He is author of 8 monographs, including “Texas Death Row,” “ Delta Time” and “To the Promised Land ,"Witness In Our Time" published in Fall 2000 & a new edition in 2010. It is a text with 22 interviews of photographers working in this genre and looks at how photographers work, live and struggle to complete projects and get work into the world. His latest book is "Valley of Shadows & Dreams." His work has appeared in numerous magazines including, Rolling Stone, Granta, Time, Newsweek, Mother Jones, The National Journal, Speak, L'Internazionale and Camera Arts.

Ken Light's home page


Witness In Our Time
Witness In Our Time

Witness in Our Time traces the recent history of social documentary photography in the words of twenty-nine of the genre's best photographers, editors, and curators, showing how the profession remains vital, innovative, and committed to social change. The second edition includes a new section of interviews on documentary photography in the field and an exploration of the role of photojournalism in 21st-century media. Witness in Our Time provides an insider's view of a profession that continues to confront questions of art and truth while extending the definitions of both.

Texas Death Row
Texas Death Row

Ken Light and his camera were permitted unparalleled access to Texas Death Row. His stark, powerful images show where and how the condemned live. In the year he took these pictures, fourteen men were executed in Texas.

Suzanne Donovan's accompanying essay, "Shadow Figures: A Portrait of Life on the Row," draws upon her interviews with the condemned men and with prison authorities, family members, and members of victims' families

Whoever opens this book will want to look away, for the pictures and words force us to gaze intimately into the eye of death.

Coal Hollow
Coal Hollow

"America's coal industry remains a laboratory test for 'free market' capitalism and government's efforts to control it. The people who live in it, as captured here in words and pictures by Ken and Melanie Light, are obstinate, wounded, witty, profane, and definatly human." - John Sayles, Independent Filmmaker"

Delta Time
Delta Time

Light's duotones of Mississippi provides a strong blend of artistic talent and documentary photography, depicting black cotton workers and field laborers' homes in the rural Delta region. The ultimate result is to portray how little the poverty of the region has changed in the past three decades: his works are gripping, indeed. -- Midwest Book Review

With These Hands
With These Hands

"Ken Lights images of workers reveal a compassionate concern for people that places them in the tradition of the socially motivated photographs of Lewis Hine and Dorothea Lange." Walter Rosenblum & Naomi Rosenblum With an introduction by Cesar Chavez and text by Paula DiPerna.

To The Promised Land
To The Promised Land

To The Promised Land gives an intimate view of a situation of enormous and often tragic proportions. The photographic portraits and reportage of the long dangerous journey from Mexico to the United States in photographs and is supported by a brilliant essay by Richard Rodriquez. The images take us from rural Mexico to the U.S.-Mexican Border and finally to the communities of Southern California, where these undocumented immigrants try to create a new life.

Valley of Shadows & Dreams
Valley of Shadows & Dreams

In Valley of Shadows and Dreams Ken & Melanie Light (writer) dig deep into the harsh truths of farm workers' daily experience, revealing a deep sense of anger and betrayal toward the destructive legacies of politics, bureaucracy, and control.
The Lights show us once-viable farmland transformed into neighborhoods full of empty tract homes that no workers can afford. We are confonted head-on with the devastating results of foreclosure. We stand in the Community Center food line in Mendota, we slip magically onto a midnight dance floor with migrant workers in Tulare, and we sail out across the San Joaquin River on a rope swing.

Published Stories & Highlights:

Inspiration from Photographer Jacob Riis
Photo director Ken Light talks about his influence and inspiration from documentary photographer Jacob Riis.
The Vanishing Valley
The New York Times
A photographic look at the valley that quietly supplies half of the fruits and vegetables for the United States, has provided the dream for many, but it is also deeply shadowed.
Creators Across America
Copyright Alliance
Copy right and You; Creators across America is a video program that features creators of media and other forms of intellectual property and how the © has protected their work
What Is The Power of A Photo
KALW 91.7 FM
What is the power of a photograph a conversations about polotics, arts and media with host Rose Agulair and Ken Light, Steve McCurry and Trevor Paglen
From Organizer To Photographer
Public Presentation
A public lecture at The Annenberg Space for Photography
Ken Light Talks About Sebastiao Salgado's Work

Ken Light does a walk through of the images of Sebastiao Salgado on view at the Brower Center in Berkeley, California.

The Valley of Shadows
The Central Valleys fertile land supplies nearly half of all U.S. fruits, nuts and vegetables. But drought and neglect are leaving ghosts towns in its wake. A five part multi media presentation.
Coal Hollow
Digital Journalist: A Multimedia Magazine for Photojournalism

From: Digital Journalist: A Multimedia Magazine for Photojournalism: "Adjunct Professor Ken Light's black-and-white photography and Melanie Light's oral histories give us a documentary that goes far beyond the news to show the enduring damage coal mining has done to the people and environment of Appalachia. "

Tell It On the Mountain

For Salon.com, Sarah Karnasiewicz reviews a powerful new book of photos and oral histories by adjunct professor Ken Light documenting the ravaged lives of West Virginia's coal miners.

Other Works:

A story by UC Berkeley Media Relations about the three weeks Ken Light spent this summer working on his extended documentary project in West Virginia on the coal industry. Some of the photographs were on exhibit in the school's North Gate Gallery in April 2002.  Read more...

Ken Light, the director of UCB's Center for Photography, talks in detail about three of Sebastião Salgados photographs from the "Then and Now" exhibition at the David Brower Center, which runs May 14, 2009 through January 31, 2010. Produced by SPARK for This Week in Northern California.  Read more...