Photography for Advocacy

August 1, 2006 @ 4:00 am


A 10 year old boy stands on a milk crate as he is being fingerprinted by a sheriff. The heart wrenching sound of a mother’s wailing as she watches her child being executed. It is the story of our country’s juvenile detention and prison system, captured by photographers Andrew Lichtenstein and Steve Liss respectively in a photography exhibition now on display at the Columbia University School of Social Work.

Entitled “The True Cost of Prison,” Lichtenstein examines the massive U.S. prison complex through the stories of those who know it firsthand. As open society endures daily challenges in postwar regions around the world, the United States faces its own pressing crises. In New York and Texas, Lichtenstein examines the immense social, political, and economic repercussions of the U.S. prison complex.

In “No Place for Children: Voices from Juvenile Detention,” Liss critiques the punitive approach of the U.S. prison system, turning his lens on an underresourced, overcrowded juvenile detention center near Laredo, Texas. With his photographs, Liss challenges viewers to see these youths not as a social ill but as a social responsibility.

The exhibition is part of the Open Society Institute’s “Moving Walls” series. The exhibit is located on the fourth floor of the School of Social Work building (1255 Amsterdam Avenue) and is open to the public Monday through Friday from 10:00am-3:00pm. For more information about the exhibition, please contact Jeannie Yip at 212-851-2327 or, or visit


About the Photographers

Andrew Lichtenstein, a native of New York City who currently resides in Brooklyn, is a documentary photographer who works on long-term stories of social concern. Lichtenstein’s work on prisons and incarceration has appeared in books, newspapers, and magazines, including U.S. News and World Report, Time, and the New York Times. His series of photographs titled “Witness to an Execution” were inspired by a Sound Portraits radio documentary of the same name that aired on NPR’s “All Things Considered” and won a Peabody Award in 2000. In 2000 he received a Soros Justice Fellowship from the Open Society Institute.

Steve Liss, a native of Quincy, Massachusetts, has been a news photographer since the age of 17 when he began taking pictures for his hometown weekly newspaper, the Quincy Sun. He has been photographing the United States for Time since 1976. Though Liss has covered six presidential campaigns, his greatest satisfaction comes from exploring themes of social significance through photographs of everyday life. Thirty-seven of his photographs have appeared on the cover of Time, and he has won numerous awards from the National Press Photographer’s Association, Pictures of the Year, and the World Press Association, including First Place: Magazine Picture Story in 1996 and First Place: Magazine Feature in 2003.