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A poignant memoir of a woman who documented social injustice with her camera

Risking Life and Lens

A Photographic Memoir

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Helen M. Stummer

"Helen M. Stummer's Risking Life and Lens is an extraordinarily personal glimpse into the life and work of a photographer who has spent her career consumed with documenting social injustice and those it has affected most. Stummer turns her lens on the Lower East Side and Newark with a levity reminiscent of Helen Levitt's photographs of children and a direness evocative of Jacob Riis's images of the tenements of New York. These seemingly disparate qualities combine to make Stummer's photographs both captivating and relevant. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the humanity of our urban cities."John Cyr, photographer and author of Developer Trays

For more than forty years, Helen M. Stummer has captured images depicting the dignity, humanity, and suffering of people living in conditions of poverty. Her efforts taught her to understand firsthand the resilience of people living in insufferable conditions. In her inspiring memoir, Risking Life and Lens, Stummer recounts her experiences as a socially-concerned documentary photographer whose passion for her work overcame her fears.

Stummer's images, from the mean streets of Manhattan and Newark, New Jersey, to the back woods of Maine and the mountains of Guatemala, expose the myths of poverty and serve as a metaphor for her challenges in her own life. The 159 photographs reproduced here recount Stummer's journey as an artist and her personal quest for truth.

Risking Life and Lens shares Stummer's work and educational efforts and it provides valuable insights about race, class, and social justice-issues that continue to divide the country and the world. Her work has created change in both her own life and the lives of those who view it.

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Excerpt

Read the Introduction (pdf).

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Reviews

"Helen M. Stummer is of that rare breed of humans who seek a personal path of enlightenment that ends up teaching us all. In this case, as a social documentary photographer who opens windows for viewing extraordinary social worlds. Worlds of real, diverse people living out everyday lives criss-crossed by realities of race, class, gender in intensely urban settings of East Coast metropolises. Her always emotion-laden, highly humanized, and vividly realistic black-and-white photos speak much beyond the thousand words of the old cliché to universal lived truths no number of words can convey."
Joe Feagin, Distinguished Professor, Texas A&M University

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Contents

Foreword • Truth Be Told: Restating the Obvious, by William Weiner

1. It Began with a Walk
2. Storms in Newark
3. To Maine and Beyond
4. Doing and Teaching
5. Bringing It All Home
6. Coming Full Circle

Acknowledgments

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About the Author(s)

Helen M. Stummer is a New Jersey-based social documentary photographer and Visual Sociologist whose work is included in the collections of the Library of Congress, the International Center of Photography in Manhattan, the Museum of the City of New York, the Brooklyn Museum, and Rutgers University Libraries Special Collections in New Brunswick. She is Associate Professor Emerita of Photography and Photojournalism at the County College of Morris and the author of No Easy Walk: Newark, 1980-1993 (Temple). She received grants from the George and Helen Segal Foundation in 2011-2012 and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts in 1995 and 2003 and a Distinguished Alumni Award from Kean University in 2012. Visit her online at hmstummercom.

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Subject Categories

Art and Photography
Biography/Memoir/Autobiography
American Studies

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