Judith Joy Ross: Photographies 1978-2015
Le BAL presents the photographic work of American artist Judith Joy Ross, a major figure in contemporary photography known worldwide for her portraits. The exhibition is curated by Joshua Chuang.
Startling in their transparency, the photographs of Judith Joy Ross attest the ability of a portrait to glimpse the past, present, and even the future of its subject.
Since the mid-1970s, Ross has used large-format cameras, printing the resulting negatives by contact to memorialize her brief encounters with a cross-section of individuals, with a focus on the working-class people of northeastern Pennsylvania, where she was born, raised, and still lives.
Without sentimentality or irony, Ross registers with steely delicacy the faces and bearing of the people who stand before her lens, intent on seeing the complexity of who they are rather than a projection of who they might otherwise be. This has required a spontaneous and radical leveling of the relationship between photographer and subject.
Ross’s portraits are often, but not always, made in the context of a series animated by moral, civic, or existential concerns. They address the sweep of human experience—innocence and loss; bravery and fear; bitterness and beauty; resilience and disenchantment—themes Ross has explored in subjects ranging from children at municipal parks and public schools and elected members of Congress, to African immigrants in Paris and strangers encountered on a cross-country drive. America’s engagement in various wars has spurred some of Ross’s most riveting portraits, of visitors to a national memorial, reservists called into active duty, and civilians who have either supported or stood in protest against these campaigns.
The distinctive way in which Judith Joy Ross tensions intimacy and emotional distance reveals the mutability of fellow beings subject to the greater forces of the world.
For her, the camera is a tool not only for connection, but also for transcendence. “Without a camera, I am often anxious and unforgiving in my judgment,” Ross has said. “With a camera, I can come to see and make sense of it all.”
“ALL MY LIFE I WANTED TO BE AN ARTIST, BUT UNTIL I DISCOVERED PHOTOGRAPHY, I DID NOT HAVE A CLEAR IDEA OF WHAT THAT MEANT.
WITH THE CAMERA I FOUND A WAY TO CONNECT TO THE BIGGER WORLD. PEOPLE BECAME MY SUBJECT—THE LIVES OF PEOPLE! THEY WERE ALL STRANGERS BUT NOW I COULD KNOW THEM.” – JUDITH JOY ROSS
The exhibition is organized by the Fundación MAPFRE in collaboration with LE BAL. The catalog is published by Aperture.
About the Author
Judith Joy Ross is an American portrait photographer. Her books include Contemporaries (1995), Portraits (1996), Portraits of the Hazleton Public Schools (2006) and Protest the War (2007), “exploring such themes as the innocence of youth, the faces of political power, and the emotional toll of war”.
Ross was born in Hazleton, Pennsylvania in 1946. She graduated from the Moore College of Art in 1968 and earned a master’s degree in photography in 1970 from the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, where she studied with Aaron Siskind.
Since the early 1980s, Ross has photographed a cross-section of the American population, especially people in eastern Pennsylvania where she was born and raised. Ross uses an 8×10 inch view camera mounted on a tripod and her portraits are made on printing-out paper by contact, a process by which a print is made by placing a negative directly onto photographic paper, and then exposing it to sunlight for a few minutes to a few hours. Her photographic antecedents include the German August Sander and the American Diane Arbus.
Her series include pictures of children at Eurana Park in Weatherly, Pennsylvania (1982), visitors to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. (1983–1984), members of the United States Congress and their aides in their Washington offices (1986–1987), laborers, people at shopping malls, and children at play near her home in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She has also photographed immigrants in New York City and Paris, and was commissioned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to photograph tech workers in Silicon Valley, California. One of her major projects, pictures made from 1992 to 1994 in Hazleton public schools she had attended in the 1950s and 1960s, was published by the Yale University Art Gallery in 2006 as Portraits of the Hazleton Public Schools.
Ross has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (1985), a city of Easton, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Grant (1988), the Charles Pratt Memorial Award of $25,000 (1992), and the Andrea Frank Foundation Award (1998).
Monographs and exhibition catalogs of her work have been published internationally.
John Szarkowski at the Museum of Modern Art in New York selected Ross’ work for the first exhibition in the New Photography series. In 2011, Die Photographische Sammlung in Cologne organized a retrospective exhibition of Ross’s work which traveled to the Kunstmuseum Kloster in Magdeburg and the Foundation A Stichting, Brussels. (via Wikipedia.org)
Judith Joy Ross : Photographies 1978-2015
Until September 18, 2022
LE BAL – Paris