Light Work’s mission is to provide direct support to emerging and under-recognized visual artists working in photography and related lens based media through artist residencies, exhibitions, projects, and publications. Light Work invites twelve artists to participate in the Artist-in-Residence program every year. More than 500 artists have participated at pivotal early stages in their careers.


Light Work was founded as an artist-run, non-profit organization in 1973. 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.

Light Work’s founding directors were Phil Block and Tom Bryan. Jeffrey Hoone led the organization from 1982-2021. Light Work is housed in the Robert B. Menschel Media Center at Syracuse University.

Light Work receives support for its programs from the New York State Council on the Arts; the National Endowment for the Arts; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; JGS (Joy of Giving Something, Inc.); Robert and Joyce Menschel; Vital Projects Fund, Inc.; Syracuse University (SU); the Central New York Community Foundation, CNY Arts and our subscribers.

Collaborative partners have included Syracuse University’s Division of Student Affairs, Department of Film and Media Arts in the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University, Syracuse University Humanities Center, Autograph ABP, the Community Folk Art Center, En Foco, the Everson Museum of Art, the Red House Art Center, the Urban Video Project (UVP), and more.

Community Darkrooms ( Light Work Lab) Membership Card from 1972

Artist-in-Residence Program

Over 400 artists from every state and over fifteen countries have been selected to participate in its renowned Artist-in-Residence Program. The program exemplifies Light Work’s primary goal of supporting artists.


Light Work has published over 200 issues of Contact Sheet, plus over fifty exhibition catalogues for the Robert B. Menschel Photography Gallery and a number of special project books. Contact Sheet is one of the longest-running art photography publications in the world that has showcased contemporary photographers since 1977. It features artists who have participated in Light Work’s Artist-in-Residence and exhibition programs. Subscribers have access to the full digital archive of our publications.


Light Work’s multiple galleries have featured over 400 exhibitions. Four exhibitions are curated for its main gallery, the Kathleen O. Ellis Gallery, every year and are each accompanied by an issue of Light Work’s publication, Contact Sheet. Other exhibition venues include Light Work’s Hallway Gallery, the flat panel display, and the Robert B. Menschel Photography Gallery.

Light Work Grants

Since its inception in 1975, over 150 artists have been awarded Light Work Grants in Photography. This program was established to encourage the creation of new work and scholarship in Central New York. Each year Light Work awards three grants of $3,000 to local photographers, critics, or photo-historians as a way to acknowledge and support local talent.

Co-founders Phil Block and Tom Bryan, c.1973

Light Work Lab

Over 25,000 artists, students, and patrons have used Light Work’s state-of-the-art photo and digital lab to make new work. The community-access facility is designed for intuitive use to create museum-quality art. Available equipment includes a high-end digital lab with large-format printers and Flextight scanners, a black-and-white lab, a lighting studio, and more.

Urban Video Project

UVP is an important international venue for the public presentation of video and electronic arts. It is one of the few projects in the United States dedicated to continuous and ongoing video art projections. UVP is a multimedia public art initiative of Light Work and Syracuse University along the Connective Corridor in Syracuse, NY.

Light Work Collection

The Light Work Collection includes over 4,000 photographs and art objects. Most former Artists-in-Residence, such as Cindy Sherman, John Gossage, Sunil Gupta, and more, are represented with early work that was made during the time of their residency. All images in the collection can be viewed online. The collection adds to the artists’ visibility and is accessed especially by friends of photography, researchers, curators, collectors, educators, and students.

Website & Blog

The Light Work website and blog now receive over 2,000 visits every day, adding up to at least 30,000 unique visits per month. The Light Work Blog is one of the most popular features on the website, featuring artist news, opportunities, Light Work updates, and special offers.