Judith Joy Ross (born 1946) is an American portrait photographer 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. Her books include Contemporaries
(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"
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 Madeburg and the Foundation A Stichting
Since the early 1980s, the American photographer Judith Joy Ross has dedicated her work to the medium of portraiture. She is best known for her sensitive, deeply personal, yet authentic portraits of various groups of people at the center of American society: school children and teachers, soldiers, visitors to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. and U.S. Congress members of the Republican and Democratic parties. The photographs, which Ross contextualizes by arranging them in series, offer both an aesthetic and a humanitarian approach to photography.
Judith Joy Ross’s work shows references to photographers like August Sander, Eugène Atget, Walker Evans or Diane Arbus in her documentary style and her use of technical equipment. She photographs with an 8x10 inch view camera, which due to long exposure times and the need to set up a tripod forces her to concentrate on her subjects and does not allow for snapshots. The subjects are usually strangers to the photographer and so the photograph itself becomes an intense encounter.
August Sander is often mentioned as a major influence. Both, Ross and Sander focus on facial expressions, gestures and posture of their subjects. However, while Sander’s famous photographs from the series People of the 20th Century is staged and aims at categorizing certain social groups, Ross does not give directions to her subjects and thus achieves an immediacy that characterizes her approach and style. It makes the viewer think about the inner reality of the person by using their own social experience in order to relate to the people she portraits, thus stressing the individuality of each subject over their association with a specific group. Judith Joy Ross describes her intention as follows: “The world outside oneself is bigger than ones idea of it. One tries to align oneself with that bigger world in making a picture”
Source: Galerie Thomas Zander
At present, Ross is suffering from an eye problem following pre-pandemic surgery that has left her with double vision. “I can photograph,” she say, “but it’s hard to take a walk.”
One senses that photography gave her a way to be in the world. “I’m just interested in people, but I don’t want to get too close to them,”
she says. “I keep them at arm’s length with the camera. It’s like a magic charm. It’s such an intense pleasure to photograph strangers because, in that moment, you can see them in such an intimate way. It’s kind of crazy, but I love some of those people even though I have never seen them again.”
Source: The Guardian