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"Coal Hollow: Work by Ken Light, Oral Histories by Melanie Light"
2006-08-31 until 2006-10-29
Southeast Museum of Photography
USA United States of America
For three years Ken Light photographed the death of the coal industry and its culture in the struggling mining communities and former coal company towns of West Virginia. Extreme poverty, welfare dependence, major diseases like "black lung"; a sense of hopelessness about lost jobs and lost heritage is haunting the country"s most impoverished state. This is the first complete showing of the Coal Hollow exhibition, with more than seventy of Ken Light's powerful photographs presented with accompanying oral histories and text by Melanie Light.
"Photographer Ken Light and writer Melanie Light rivet readers' attention on the landscape and lives of rural southern West Virginia in the first years of the 21st century - Coal Hollow belongs in the pantheon of great documentary projects of photo and text. The Lights succeed in respecting their subjects, intruding on their lives just enough to render a haunting profile of hardworking folks living on the margins." --Choice: Current Reviews For Academic Libraries.
"The people in these photographs looked so poor that if I squinted my eyes, they might have been in Africa or Peru. It seemed to me that life had always been rough in Appalachia, but this degree of poverty was the ugliest, toughest poverty I had ever seen. It was too hard". Melanie Light
"America's coal industry remains a laboratory test for 'free market' capitalism and government's efforts to control it. The people who live in it, as captured here in words and pictures by Ken and Melanie Light, are obstinate, wounded, witty, profane, and defiantly human"-- John Sayles
Ken Light is a social documentary photographer whose work has appeared in books, magazines and exhibitions. He is the author of Delta Time (Smithsonian Institution Press 1995) and Texas Death Row (University Press of Mississippi 1997). To The Promised Land (Aperture 1988); With These Hands (Pilgrim Press 1986); and In the Fields (Harvest Press 1982), examine the lives of farm workers and their journey from Mexico illegally to the United States. Witness In Our Time: The Lives of Social Documentary Photographers was released by the Smithsonian Institution Press in October 2000. Ken Light has exhibited internationally in over 120 one-person and group shows and is part 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 two National Endowment for the Arts Photographers Fellowships, the Dorothea Lange Fellowship and a fellowship from the Erna and Victor Hasselblad Foundation.
Ken Light's photographs have been published in Granta, Time, Newsweek, Fortune, Mother Jones, The National Journal, Speak, L'Internazionale, Camera Arts and other magazines. He is a Professor and Director of the Center for Photography at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. With Melanie Light he is the founder of the International Fund for Documentary Photography and Fotovision.
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