An Undersung Master Portrait Photographer

Judith Joy Ross zeroes in on her subjects’ vulnerability but never exploits it.

By Vince AlettiJanuary 11, 2022

A young woman in a swimsuit.

“Untitled, Eurana Park, Weatherly, Pennsylvania,” 1985.Photographs by Judith Joy Ross

When Judith Joy Ross was asked what she hoped to achieve with her photographs of people, she said simply, “To know something about somebody.” It’s an uncommonly modest goal, but one that helps to explain the quiet, probing power of her work. The portraits that Ross has been making and exhibiting since the nineteen-eighties, nearly all of men, women, and children whom she’s encountering for the first time out in the world, are the result of looking closely and deeply, as if each moment that she captures matters. Ross’s attention is unwavering, and when her subjects return it there’s a flash of recognition between them. Her work isn’t merely a record of everyday life. It’s about the longing to connect and the pleasure of being truly seen.

Two children sitting on a tall tree stump.
“Untitled, Eurana Park, Weatherly, Pennsylvania,” 1982.
An older woman looking out over a balcony.
“Lois Adele America Merriweather Armstrong, looking at the skyline of Manhattan, Eagle Rock Reservation, West Orange, New Jersey,” September 18, 2001.

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