Witness the Death of the ’60s in Ken Light’s Era-Defining Photos

The documentary photographer’s early work captures protests, politicians, and everyday life in the early ’70s.

Cambodia Invasion Riot, Columbus, Ohio, 1970<a href="http://www.kenlight.com">Ken Light</a>

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Ken Light’s photos from 1969 to 1974 document the social landscape of America as it frayed at the seams, rife with turmoil. As a young photographer, Light captured the country at this pivotal moment, and his frontline protest photos in Ohio and political images from the 1972 Republican Convention in Miami show the opposite ends of the spectrum.

But the photos that make his new book, American Stories in the Age of Protest, so great are less-familiar ones: the everyday person out waving flags in support of Nixon, the garage band taking to a makeshift stage in support of McGovern, the kids hanging out in West Oakland. It’s photos like these, so common at the time, that gain importance with age. They give contour and meaning to historical projects such as this.

Having already published seven books with the likes of Aperture, Smithsonian, and the University of California Press, Light took matters into his own hands for this project, launching a Kickstarter to fund the book. With other noted, well-published photographers (like Eugene Richards) successfully crowdfunding book projects, it appears to be a win-win for folks like Light: get more people interested and involved in the projects and maintain more control over the finished product.

All photos from the book What’s Going On? 1969-1974, by Ken Light.

Nixon Rally, Inauguration, 1973
 

Detention, High School, 1971
 

Teenager, Columbus, Ohio, 1971
 

DeWitt Clinton High School, Bronx, 1972
 

Free Concert, Athens, Ohio, 1969
 

Vietnam Moratorium, Washington, DC, 1969
 
 

 

McGovern Rally, Southeast Ohio, 1972
 

Boy Scout, Nixon Inauguration, 1973
 

Ohio State Penitentiary, Columbus, Ohio
 

Return of the POWs, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, 1973
 

West Oakland, California, 1974
 

Nixon Resigns, Oakland, California, 1974
 

Photographer Ken Light, 1972, Republican National Convention, Miami
 

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Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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