Documentary photographer Andrew Lichtenstein came to my Documentary Photography class to present his work. Lichtenstein is a Brooklyn based photographer and is the definition of a starving artist, “I have a stack of bills this big,” he said and spread his hands from his forehead to his waist, “and I just wait for the envelopes to change color before I deal with it,” yet his work is quite renowned in the world of documentary and photojournalism.
He presented to us his project “Never Coming Home”, a series of photo stories about families that had lost their children in the early times of the Iraq war. He began this project in 2003, when there were very few deaths and plentiful support for the conflict. His series includes color digital stills of the families that have lost their children. The families gave all kinds of access to Lichtenstein including entry into their homes, the deceased’s bedrooms, even at the funerals of their children. These color stills were played as a slide show and accompanied by interviews of the families. Lichtenstein stressed to our class that as a photographer, it is important to have experience with other forms of media, and that his project would not have been the same without the sound over his images.
He let us preview a work in progress, a collection of photographs that highlight the unpopular past of our country. He prefers to photograph things that have already happened, for example, a location in Connecticut where a statue once stood commemorating a massacre on Native American tribes, or a site in Colorado where the National Guard attacked a coal strikers camp. “I prefer to study social issues,” said Lichtenstein, “It’s not all pretty.”