Are we capable to make photographs that capture emotions, feelings: of people, objects, places?

This is a question often asked in photography. Not that it is widely voiced by different photographers, but it can definitely be said that it is in these people’s minds more often than you might think. I’m in this class of people.

I have not (yet) achieved in my lifetime a level of education in photography (or in the visual arts) to affirm principles in this art in a categorical way. I feel (still) far from it. But I’ve already reached some insights that allow me to speak/write some things with relatively reliable content, express my feelings, things like that.

I like to analyze/study works by those who are, in the photography art media, called ‘great masters’. One of them for me is USA photographer Judith Joy Ross (1946; Hazleton, Pennsylvania) who has a wonderful job (my insight) in photography and is at present with an exhibition (a retrospective of the last 40 years: 1978-2015 ) at Fundación MAPFRE in Madrid, Spain until January 29, 2022 (…/judith-joy-ross…/). Ross is not one of those studio portraits. Her work environment is outside, it’s the street. In the 80’s she concentrates her work in the portraits genre and, it’s no secret, that she was inspired by the works of great photographers like August Sander, Walker Evans and Diane Arbus, always photographing strangers and mainly (here comes the central point from my ‘review’): the focus on recording or capturing the emotions or feelings stamped on the faces of the people photographed.

I wrote a short review the other day (Reflections on Photography -11/11/21) commenting on one of the photographs of one of her most personal projects where she photographed children and teenagers in a park (Eurana Park, Weatherly, Pennsylvania, USA), photo this , charged with strong magic. After her father’s death, she returns to this place that holds memories of her childhood life.

But the photographer has other projects or series of a social nature with photographs of people who express their strong position against wars, in fact the same position and feeling as the author. She verbatim says that she was only able to take such photographs from the day she realized this feeling inside her. And it is about these photographs that I would like to comment. The central aspect I want to focus on here is the ability of the photographs from this Judith Joy Ross project to stamp their anti-war feelings on people’s faces. For me, in the photographs presented below, this feeling is so vivid that it jumps out at the eyes of those who see them.

The photographer’s choice is to photograph people expressing their anti-war feelings and not others that can be considered true clichés in this type of work, ie people usually lined up carrying protest banners and posters and usually found shouting slogans typical of these movements.

(all photographs by Judith Joy Ross)

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