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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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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