Portraits of the Hazleton Public Schools
“A good story in a picture is much better than being alive. Being alive is complicated and hard, but a good picture — I can get lost in it.” – Judith Joy Ross
For three years in the early 1990s, as a way of revisiting the experience of growing up, Judith Joy Ross returned to the schools of her youth in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, and took photographs with an old-fashioned 8×10-inch view camera. She ended up with portraits unpretentious and astonishing in their psychological insight.
A number of these photographs are featured in “Judith Joy Ross: Stories,” an exhibition of over thirty 8×10-inch prints (1992-2004) that opened last week at the Pace/MacGill Gallery in New York. Sixty-seven of Ross’s portraits of students have also been collected in her new book, “Portraits of the Hazleton Public Schools,” published by Yale University Press.
“While the pictures are often funny and sweet,” writes Mia Fineman in the New York Times, “Ms. Ross’s ability to connect with her subjects, to put them at ease, also gives them an uncommon emotional gravity.”
Her prints have a “visual intimacy” about them, she continues. There is something “willfully old-fashioned about her unironic, deeply humanist approach to portraiture.”