The work of Judith Joy Ross (b. 1946, Hazleton, Pennsylvania, US) is a vast gallery of photographic portraits taken over three decades.
From Hazleton’s schoolchildren to activists protesting against the Iraq war, Ross’ portraits – with their often tight framing and full frontal position – are imbued with a rare intensity. Her preferred spots to work are parks, play areas, supermarkets, streets … There, she invites the people she comes across to assume a pose. The entire moment is limited to an exchange of glances and quick small talk. Ross’ portraits, beyond their strong interaction and presentification, are first and foremost testimonies to these many, and for the most part individual, encounters: it is their accumulation that yields an image of the world and that reveals to us the work of the artist. Her technique is reminiscent of the beginnings of photography and of great 19th Century portraitists. For her shoots, Ross uses a view camera and the prints, of great finesse, are all contact prints. Her approach makes her kin to such photographers as August Sander, Diane Arbus or, closer to us, Rineke Dijkstra and her technique invest her portraits with the presence and distanciation that underline her genuine social and political commitment.
This exhibition was produced in partnership with Cologne’s Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur.