Historical Journal

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Judith Joy Ross: Portraits of the United States Congress

July 2, 1987
Anne Classen

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"In May 1987 Kodak suspended the manufacture of studio proof paper because so few photographers used it."

July 2 through August 30, 1987
Judith Joy Ross was born in 1946, in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. She has an undergraduate degree from Moore College of Art, and an M.S. in photography from the Institute of Design, Chicago, where she studied under Aaron Siskind and Arthur Siegal. Prior to the new U.S. Congress shots, her work included the highly acclaimed portrait series on visitors to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., which was shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1985. In 1987 she received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and in 1986 she was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, which made this project on the U.S. Congress possible.
For this series on the United States Congress, Judith Joy Ross employed an 8 x 10 inch view camera and gold-toned studio proof paper. Unlike today’s processes, chemicals are not needed to induce the development of the print on this paper. The images emerge from the studio proof paper simply by exposing to sunlight the negative sandwiched against the paper. According to weather conditions, it could take as little as five minutes or as long as several days for the print to appear. However, this technique does not make a stable image because exposure will continue indefinitely if it is not fixed. In order to arrest this exposure, Ross must immerse the paper and negative into a gold chloride solution. In addition to stabilizing the image, the gold chloride gives Ross’s prints the lush brown-grays and hints of murky purples associated with 19th century photography. In May 1987 Kodak suspended the manufacture of studio proof paper because so few photographers used it.
Anne Classen
Curatorial Assistant
Artist Statement
My attitude towards the government had always been an uncomfortable combination of suspicion and respect. Concern for how people justified their point of view led me to consider photographing the members of the United States Congress who function amidst great diversity of opinion.
Although terrified of putting myself in the position of dealing directly with men and women of such importance, making “Portraits of the U.S. Congress” became a necessity when I faced the ease with which I would condemn and casually discount those whose beliefs were in opposition to my own. The distance this attitude put between me and those with whom I disagreed became no longer tolerable.
In making these portraits, on site, in the congressional offices of the Capitol, I sought an objective stance because I was determined to see what was there and not confirm my own opinion. Not wanting to confuse ignorance with objectivity, I researched the background and political posture of each person I photographed. With this approach towards the portraits, I fought for objectivity and truly exercised a mind which needed opening.

Judith Joy Ross
Selected Exhibitions
Recent Acquisitions, Museum of Modern Art, NY
Twelve Photographers Look at Us, Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA
Jurors Exhibition: The Challenge Exhibitions, Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial, Philadelphia, PA
New Photography, Zeke Berman, Tony Mendoza, Judith Joy Ross and Michael Spano, Museum of Modern Art, NY
The Sensuous Image, Paul Cava Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Swimmers, Pace MacGill Gallery, New York
Intentions and Techniques, Photographs from the Collection of Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA
Eurana Park, Allentown Art Museum, PA
Bucks County Community College, Newton, PA
Regional Photographic Educators, Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA
Six Women Photographers, Photography Place, Philadelphia, PA
New York Fine Arts Dealers Association International Exhibition, NY
The Philadelphia Photo Review Auction, The Philadelphia Art Alliance, PA
Photography Invitational, Victoria College of the Arts, Melbourne, Australia

Allentown Art Museum, Pennsylvania Carlton Gallery, New York Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Museum of Modern Art, New York Paul F. Walter Collection, New York
The Morris Gallery displays the work of outstanding contemporary artists with a connection to Philadelphia, determined by birth, schooling, or residence. The exhibitions are chosen by a committee composed of area artists, museum personnel, and collectors, and the curatorial staff of the Pennsylvania Academy. Currently serving on the Morris Gallery Exhibition Committee are: Cynthia Carlson, Paolo Colombo, Bill Freeland, Faith Ginsburg, Dr. Helen Herrick, Cheryl McClenney, Carrie Rickey, Eileen Rosenau, Judith Tannenbaum; Academy staff Judith Stein, Morris Gallery Coordinator, Frank Goodyear, Jr., Linda Bantel, Kathleen Foster, and Academy students Anna Yates and Treacy Ziegler.
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