Ken Light is a social documentary photographer whose eight books include Valley of Shadows & Dreams, about California’s Central Valley; Texas Death Row, which offers an inside look at the nation’s largest and most active death row; and Delta Time, about rural poverty among African Americans in the South. He is the Reva and David Logan Professor of Photojournalism at the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley.
For the last 45 years I have been witnessing and photographing the human spirit and the poignancies of modern life, trying to tell stories of things that I find appalling, unseen and at the same time beautiful. My focus has been inequality and human rights in America. I have traveled to photograph the lives of condemned men in the darkness of Texas death row, the hardscrabble and insufferable lives of Afro-Americans in the Mississippi Delta and the struggle of undocumented workers toiling in the fields of America. These are just a few of the places I have photographed and where I have witnessed this other America.
It has always been my belief that a documentary photograph has to be alive and compelling. It should be universal, it must get the community, the editors, the organizers to stop and take a second glance and ask why or how does this happen! It needs to speak to the heart and the mind. Photography has been part of the means to that goal for me, to have a voice in trying to create a world where human rights are respected and inequality and suffering are challenged. My photos have meant to be a call to action and some are bearing witness to a moment in human history. But always I have strived to find our humanity and our spiritual and human connections to each other.