What is "activist photography?"

I am a photographer-- what is sometimes called a "documentary photographer"-- and an activist in movements for progressive social change, for justice and peace. My goal has always been to integrate my photography and the social or political activism which it is intended to be a part of, to produce work that contributes to the struggles of the communities where I am photographing. This is different from producing work with "social content," or what's sometimes called "political art." For one thing, it may seem more like journalism than art—actually, I think it likes somewhere between the two, or perhaps has a foot in each camp. It's more like the work of the many people who labor as journalists for alternative publications. The object is to be an active part of the movement you are working with. In the end, activist photography will be judged by the extent to which it contributes to those movements, helps to realize their goals, and perhaps also broadens their cultural concerns, as well as by its ability to provide cultural nourishment and support to activists and people of conscience.

Because of the historical baggage the expression"documentary" carries—including a tendency for documentary photographers to be sympathetic but removed from their "subjects"—I prefer to call myself an activist photographer, a committed photographer, a solidarity photographer.

In these pages, still under construction I plan in time to present work from some current projects, as well as providing connections to larger collections of my photography and other links of interest. I also want to invite comments and questions, and to tell you how you or your organization can display some of this work, or get copies of some materials I have produced.


I'll avoid legalese as much as possible, but please treat the images on these pages with respect as my intellectual property. They are all copyright©2016, Steve Cagan, and may not be reproduced or used in any way whatsoever without my express written consent. Sorry, but you all know why that was necessary. Because these pages are about photography, I have used images of somewhat better resolution than you sometimes see on web pages; I hope you will respect that and not download the images without permission. Thanks.


Like most independent photographers, I'm always looking for work. I'm available for assignment, either here in the Cleveland area, or anywhere in the country or in the world.

Thanks for your interest, your patience and your comments.

Links to some other places to see my work:

- Older web site

- Pbase, a place to see many more photographs

- Social Documentary Net

- The web site for the project on gold mining in El Chocó that I'm developing with artist Mary Kelsey

- Blogs:

       - my occasional blog about observations in Colombia

       - a blog about my impressions on returning to San Salvador in 2011

       - a blog about my impressions on returning to Nicaragua in 2013


My Résumé