Sims Hall
Work by Joe Librandi-Cowan ’15 Work by Joe Librandi-Cowan ’15

VPA News

Joe Librandi-Cowan, a 2015 graduate of the College of Visual and Performing Arts’ Department of Transmedia, was named one of three recipients of the 43rd annual Light Work Grant in Photography.

The Light Work Grants in Photography program is a part of Light Work’s ongoing effort to provide support and encouragement to Central New York artists working in photography. Established in 1975, it is one of the longest-running photography fellowship programs in the country. Each recipient receives a $3,000 award, is published in Contact Sheet: The Light Work Annual, and will be part of a group exhibition at Light Work with fellow grant recipients in the fall.

Librandi-Cowan studied art photography in the Department of Transmedia and was the recent recipient of an Imagining America Engagement Fellowship. His artistic practice is heavily community-based, dealing with the deep and complex issues of the prison industrial complex, its role within society and its impact on his hometown’s community. Librandi-Cowan is a native of Auburn, N.Y.--a community sustained by a maximum-security prison that lies in the middle of the city. He works closely with community members and community educational institutions to create and show images that function within the community to create positive dialog around these difficult topics, while simultaneously allowing these images to function outside of the community to ask bigger questions about mass incarceration within American society.

“My work brings these histories into discussion within the context of modern day mass incarceration to explore how a community so deeply ingrained within the prison industry and penal history coexists with its prison,” says Librandi-Cowan. “The work also exists to foster a discussion that asks difficult questions regarding prisons, incarceration, and policing within American society.” ​

Librandi-Cowan has received a Finger Lakes Community Arts Grant and has had solo shows of his project “The Auburn System” at the Cayuga Museum of History and Art in Auburn and the Gallery at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse. He has also shown widely online, including a feature on Lensculture and an interview with Pete Brook of the Prison Photography Project.

Light Work is a nonprofit, artist-run organization dedicated to the support of artists working in photography and electronic media. Its mission is to provide direct support through residencies, publications, exhibitions, a community-access digital lab facility, and other related projects to emerging and under-represented artists working in the media of photography and digital imaging. Visit www.lightwork.org for more information.