Judith Joy Ross
“Judith Joy Ross has, as an artist, no formula. She starts over again each time – the riskiest way to do it. She has a style, of course, but it is austere. […] Ross’s work is beautiful in its transparency.“ (- Robert Adams in: Why People Photograph?, 1994)
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”.