Ken Light – Profile

Ken Light

Ken Light is a social documentary photographer, and educator, whose work has appeared in books, magazines, catalogues, on-line media and exhibitions. He is the author of eight books including his most recent book, Valley of Shadows and Dreams (published by Heyday, 2012). Additional books include Coal Hollow, published in 2006 by The University of California Press, his text Witness In Our Time; Working Lives of Documentary Photographers was published by the Smithsonian Institution Press in October 2000 and in a revised second edition in 2010. His photo book Texas Death Row University Press of Mississippi was published in the fall of 1997. Texas Death Row is a look at life inside the death house as the condemned wait to be executed in Americas largest and most active Death Row. This work was published in Newsweek Magazine (6 pgs) , Paris Match (France-8 pgs.), Tempo (Germany-6pgs), London TelegraphNieuwe Revu (Amsterdam-6 pgs) and in Japan and Korea, Holland, Denmark, Mexico, Spain, Italy as well as on MSNBC on line , 60 Minutes and numerous documentary films .

He is also the author of Delta Time published in 1995 by the Smithsonian Institution Press. This book looks at rural Black poverty, cotton, and the southern landscape and has 104 photographs and an essay by legendary civil rights organizer Bob Moses. This work has been published in VSD in Paris, Granta, the London Independent, Spanish Elle with Walker Evans and in the Academy Award nominated documentary film Freedom on My Mind. His other books are To The Promised Land (Aperture 1988) With These Hands(Pilgrim Press 1986) and In the Fields (Harvest Press 1982) which examine the lives of farm workers and their journey from Mexico illegally to the United States. 

He has exhibited internationally in over 180 one-person and group shows including at the International Center of Photography (NYC), Visual Studies Workshop (Rochester), San Jose Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Smith College Museum of art, Visa Pour L'IMAGE (France) and is the collection of numerous collections including the San Francisco MOMA, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, the International Center of Photography and the American Museum of Art at the Smithsonian. He has received four National Endowment for the Arts grants including two Photographers Fellowships, the Dorothea Lange Fellowship and a fellowship from the Erna and Victor Hasselblad Foundation.

He is a professor at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California Berkeley and 2012 Laventhol Visiting Professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He has taught workshops at the ICP in New York City, The Missouri Workshop, Anderson Ranch, the S.F. Art Institute and the School for Photographic Studies in Prague. He was editor of the university of California Press series on contemporary photography and a founder of the International Fund for Documentary Photography which awarded grants to photographers internationally and anon-profit documentary organization based In San Francisco, California. He is associated with the editorial photo agency Contact Press Images in New York City.




Ken Light's official website

40 Years Focusing on Social Issues Facing America, talk for Iris Nights at Annenberg Space for Photography

New York Times - The Vanishing Valley, text by Ken and Melanie Light

California Watch - Multimedia Slideshow - Valley of Shadows and Dreams

San Francisco Chronicle - Interview with Ken Light

The Daily Beast hosts Newsweek report on the San Joaquin valley, the subject of Light's Valley of Shadows and Dreams. His photographs are used alongside those of Dorothea Lange in a slideshow, juxtaposing images of the Great Depression with California in the throes of the recent economic downturn.

Annenberg Space for Photography - write-up and accompanying photos show Light's presentation

Creators Across America - Copyright Alliance.

International Center for Photography - Photos from Ken Light's Coal Hollow exhibition

The Digital Journalist - J.B. Colson writes about Coal Hollow


Mother Jones writer Susanne Donovan discusses the experience of interviewing death-row inmates while working with Ken Light

Ken Light's book, Valley of Shadow and Dreams. Courtesy, ©Ken Light 2007

Ken Light - Coal Hollow, 2006

Ken Light - Coal Hollow, 2006

Ken Light - Texas Death Row, 1997

Ken Light - Texas Death Row, 1997

Texas Death Row on

Ken Light - Witness in Our Time, 2000

Ken Light - Witness in Our Time, 2000


Ken Light - With These Hands

Ken Light - With These Hands, 1986

With These Hands on