Rag Radio: Photographer Ken Light Remembers the Turbulent ’60s and Texas’ Death Row

He was the first photographer ever to be allowed access to the notorious Texas death house.

Ken Light

Noted documentary photographer Ken Light is Thorne Dreyer’s guest on Rag Radio. In this remarkable interview we discuss Ken’s new book, What’s Going On? Photographs from 1969-1974, and his earlier work, Texas Death Row.

What’s Going On? features photography that reflected Light’s “young radical vision” in the late ’60s-early ’70s, when he was a photographer for Liberation News Service (LNS) in New York. His subject matter ranges from images of the counterculture to police riots to Nixon boosters to everyday Americans from the era. We also talk about Ken’s experiences in producing his 1997 book, Texas Death Row. Ken was the first photographer ever to be given access to Texas’ infamous Death Row, including the prisoners’ cells — when the death house was at Huntsville’s Ellis Unit.

(Read Ken Wachsberger’s Rag Blog review of What’s Going On? 1969-1974, entitled “Ken Light’s photographic journey through the chaos and the calm.”)

Ken Light has worked as a freelance documentary photographer for 45 years, focusing on social issues facing America. His work has been published in nine books, including Valley of Shadows and Dreams, Coal Hollow, Delta Time, To The Promised Land, and With These Hands. He is also the author of Witness in Our Time: Working Lives of Documentary Photographers, now in its second edition. His work has appeared in numerous magazine photo essays and in a variety of other media, and presented in exhibitions worldwide. He is the Reva and David Logan Professor of Photojournalism at the Graduate School of Journalism at U.C. Berkeley and was the 2012 Laventhol Visiting Professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. His website is www.kenlight.com.

Rag Radio is produced in the studios of KOOP 91.7-FM, an all-volunteer, cooperatively-run community radio station in Austin, Texas, in association with The Rag Blog and the New Journalism Project, a Texas 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The host and producer of Rag Radio, Thorne Dreyer, is a prominent Austin-based activist and writer who was a pioneer of the ’60s underground press movement. The show’s engineer and co-producer is Tracey Schulz and the staff photographer is Roger Baker. The syndicated show is broadcast (and streamed) live Fridays, 2-3 p.m. (Central) on KOOP in Austin, and is later rebroadcast and streamed on WFTE-FM in Mt. Cobb and Scranton, PA., on Houston Pacifica’s KPFT HD-3 90.1-FM, and by KKRN, 88.5-FM in Round Mountain, CA — and is a featured podcast at VT. All Rag Radio podcasts can be found at the Internet Archive. Contact: ragradio@koop.org



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