Witness in Our Time, Second Edition
Working Lives of Documentary Photographers
By Ken Light
(Smithsonian Books (DC), Paperback, 9781588342980, 282pp.)
Publication Date: October 5, 2010
List Price: $21.95*
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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.
Light (Univ. of California, Berkeley) uses the phrase "a witness to their time" to describe the social documentary photographers highlighted in this outstanding narrative of the lives and works of photographers, editors, and curators. This collection of interviews with many of the most important social documentary photographers of the late 20th century is an impressive work that records the joys and perils of photographers who attempt to document the world around them. Many of the photographers interviewed are not well-known names, but their images resonate with times and places that instantly will be recognizable to most readers. Only a single image accompanies each narrative, but a quick search of the Internet will bring many more images to light and reinforce the importance of this remarkable collection. This second edition (1st ed., 2000) would be excellent for a course on social documentary photography and a great read for anyone interested in the inner workings of the "mind's eye" of a documentary photographer. Light is in his own right an exceptional social documentary photographer, who has made an outstanding effort in compiling this wonderful collection. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above; general readers.--J. M. King, emeritus, University of Georgia
“Photography can change the world. If you have any doubts, read this book. It will change your life.”—Brian Wallis, Chief Curator, International Center of Photography
“Ken Light has managed to get very close to some of the greats in photography: Wayne Miller, Peter Magubane, Susan Meiselas, among others, and in the process created a document that is a guide for all young people who search of the truth.”—Danny Lyon
“Seasoned pro, amateur, or fledgling photo-J school grad awash in the newest technologies, it's worth reading Ken Light's classic Witness in Our Time, which tells it like it is straight from the mouths of the best there ever were.”—Jeffrey D. Smith, Director, Contact Press Images
“For all of us who have complained about how tough things are in these times (and who among us has not complained?), the voices in this book remind us photojournalism and documentary photography were never easy, not even for those included in this book who are generally accepted as stars in the profession.”—Jim McNay, past president of the National Press Photographers Association