Thursday, September 25, 2008

Judith Joy Ross

Untitled from the series "Easton Portraits". 1989

Sometimes it only takes one picture. In 1990 I was at the Museum of Modern Art viewing John Szarkowski’s final exhibition, “Photography Until Now” when I was stopped in my tracks by the last photograph in the show – a small but luminous 8 x 10 inch print on printing out paper of three young girls in bathing suits looking shyly at the camera while behind them, in the distance and out of focus, a teenage boy observes the proceedings. The picture was so visceral in its textures, so full of incipient narrative, and so intelligently composed, I knew this had to be the work of a brilliant photographer and without seeing one more of her pictures, I tracked her down and offered her a show.

We ended up doing two shows - the first a survey of her “Easton” pictures, photographs of children from her hometown of Easton, Pennsylvania; and the second of her pictures of visitors to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C.. While taking pains to avoid showing the Memorial itself in order to convey a more universal sense of loss, the portraits nevertheless carried all the emotional weight of their subjects' experience, the sadness of the bereaved, and the tragic results of war.

Below: Untitled photographs from the series: Portraits at The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C., 1983/1984

For the last decade, Judith has been represented by Pace MacGill where Peter MacGill, the son of a preacher (and with his own strong antiwar sentiments) has steadfastly supported her work. Now through October 11, you can see her latest series, close-up portraits of protesters to the Iraq war shot all around Pennsylvania and in Washington D.C. and Tempe, Arizona. The show has its own small catalog along with a larger book, "Living With War - Portraits", that puts together all of Ross's series connected to war.

Taken with a cumbersome 8 x 10 view camera, the process that goes into making the pictures requires an unusual complicity, and evidence of the rapport between the photographer and the subject fills the frame. Like all of Ross’s work, it’s a reflective and deeply personal essay, but it asks the question – what are you doing to be true to your beliefs? What does it take to get you out of your regular routine? It’s a subtle but powerful call to act.

Annie Hasz, Easton, Pennsylvania, 2007

Patrick McCann, March on Washington, 2007

Julian Lovas, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 2006

Ora Knowell, March on Washington, 2007

Betty Compton, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 2007

Jessica Haynes, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 2006

Canon John C. Fowler, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 2006

Layne Cole, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 2006

Art Landis, Sellerville, Pennsylvania, 2006

Ellen Buck, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 2006


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting these. I love the way you always start out talking about photography and then make it about so much more. PLEASE continue after the year is up! Maegan said...

she really captures the true reality and grittiness and mood in every shot. I wouldn't necessarily hang them on my wall but I could stare at them for hours.

Also, I never once thought you would stop after the "year" ...but now, with all these comments, I am beginning to worry!

dougphoto said...

wow that's really great work, thanks for sharing some how I've missed her work. I also love the story of how you found her.

matthew pace said...

you know we get so caught up in this digital world with all the programs,cameras and endless systems that we have to keep up with and the time spent behind the computer, that we relate more to the equipment and techniques than to photography itself.

Nice to see that perhaps in the slowing down, Zen like approach that large format and film, the soul of photography emerges.

Guy Hermann said...

What lovely photos. Honest, direct, passionate.

Ms Frankie said...

wow! these images really take your breath away. i haven't seen images like these in a while where you take that extra time to look.