Ken Light Biography

Ken Light




Photographer and photojournalist Kenneth Randall Light was born in the the Bronx, New York, on March 16, 1951. After enrolling in sociology and government courses at Ohio University in 1969, he developed an interest in film photography and used his father's camera to document various significant events on campus and beyond. Among them were Richard Nixon's campaign and the protests against the Vietnam War and U.S. bombing of Cambodia. At a protest in 1970, he was arrested for his association with the "Underground Press" but was given his undeveloped film upon release; these images would later go on to be published around the world. 

This experience led him to pursue photography professionally, with a focus on social justice and the daily lives of impoverished and underserved people in the American South, Appalachia, and in the farmlands of California. In 1983 he joined the faculty at University of California, Berkeley, where he taught at the Graduate School of Journalism and worked as curator for the J-School's Center for Photography. He continues to teach at Berkeley and has published several books of his photography. In 2021 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship as the first photographer to be elected as a Laventhol Visiting Professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. That same year he published he most recent book, Course of the Empire (Steidl) that documents the decline American democracy from 2011 to 2021.

He continues to work and exhibit in the San Francisco Bay Area.