James Karales (1930-2002) received a B.F.A. in photography from Ohio University in 1955 and then headed to New York and found work as a darkroom assistant to master photographer W. Eugene Smith. Karales's earliest photo-essays had already come to the attention of Edward Steichen, curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which acquired two of Karales's photographs from his series on the Greek American community of Canton, Ohio. Another early photo-essay, on the integrated mining community of Rendville, Ohio, was featured in Karales's first solo exhibition, held in 1958 at Helen Gee's Limelight gallery in Greenwich Village. From 1960 to 1971, Karales worked as a staff photographer for Look magazine, traveled the world and photographed wherever he was sent.
In 1965, Karales documented the fifty-four-mile voting-rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and his images from that event became iconic both for him and for the civil rights movement. His other major projects include images from Vietnam during the war; New York's Lower East Side; and Oregon logging. He also completed an in-depth photographic essay the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).