Deborah Luster is best known for the series, One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana, which she undertook in 1998 with poet C. D. Wright. This collection of photographic portraits portrays prisoners from three Louisiana prisons including the infamous Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. In her 2003 monograph (One Big Self, Twin Palms Publishing), she writes, “I chose to photograph each person as they presented their very own selves before my camera on the chance that I might be fortunate enough to contact, as poet Jack Gilbert writes ‘their hearts in their marvelous cases.’ These portraits—painstakingly printed on 5 x 4 inch sheets of black aluminum—are individualistic, diverse and emotionally compelling.

Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, New Orleans Museum of Art, and other notable public and private collections.