UC Berkeley press release

NEWS RELEASE, 10/14/97

Texas Death Row photos shock, enlighten at Journalism School's new Center for Photography

by Julia Sommer


BERKELEY -- News photographers have been getting a black eye recently, what with Diana's death and other high-profile celebrity-paparazzi encounters.

But UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism aims to counteract that negative image with its Center for Photography. The Center officially opens Oct. 23 with a 5:30 p.m. reception, panel discussion, and exhibition by renowned social documentary photographer Ken Light-"Texas Death Row."

About a third of all executions in this country now take place in Texas. Light's photos reveal in gritty black and white how condemned men live behind bars while they wait for death.

Light and journalist Suzanne Donovan were granted extraordinary access to the largest death row in the country for three weeks in 1994. They will be on hand Oct. 23 to sign their new book, "Texas Death Row," published by the University Press of Mississippi.

A panel discussion on "The Media and Death Row" will follow the reception, moderated by William Bennett Turner, a San Francisco lawyer who has done a number of capital appeals and teaches First Amendment and the Press at the Journalism School. He is perhaps best known for representing all Texas prisoners in the Ruiz lawsuit over prison conditions.

Turner will be joined by Light, co-author Donovan (who is also former director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas), and Michael Laurence, a Bay Area attorney currently working on death penalty cases in California.

The show will remain up through Jan. 8 in the newly refurbished Photo Gallery at North Gate Hall on campus (Hearst and Euclid streets).

The idea for the center originated with journalism school dean Orville Schell. When he came aboard last year, Schell realized that the school's top-notch journalism courses were not matched by training in photojournalism-an increasingly important aspect of modern media.

Schell was also struck by the "vast, unclaimed acreage of empty halls and walls" at universities, and vowed to put the journalism school's to better use. "The center's photo exhibits will put soul in the building," he says of the recently refurbished North Gate Hall. "They will have a profound effect-both visual and intellectual-on young writers who may never take a photo. In the TV age, we're losing touch with photojournalism."

With $500,000, five-year funding from Susie Tompkins Buell, former co-owner of Esprit and an ardent collector of photographs, the Center for Photography will be able to offer beginning and advanced courses in news photography and photojournalism every semester, starting this fall. Light is teaching them.

"Now we'll start attracting students specifically interested in photojournalism and visits from world-class photojournalists," says Light, also author of the documentary photography books "Delta Time, To the Promised Land," and "With These Hands." He is currently writing a book on photography for the Smithsonian.

Future Center for Photography exhibitions will showcase Wayne Miller, January-March, who worked with Edward Steichen during World War II and helped him mount the "Family of Man" exhibit, and French photographer Mark Riboud, April-July, who will lecture at the journalism school in April.

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