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Celia, 1980, by Judith Joy Ross

Celia, 1980, by Judith Joy Ross. © Judith Joy Ross, courtesy Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne


Judith Joy Ross

April 24–August 6, 2023

“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. It cannot, if she panics, be used to take the place of content.”
—American photographer Robert Adams

The work of Judith Joy Ross marks a watershed in the lineage of the photographic portrait. Her pictures—unpretentious, quietly penetrating, startling in their transparency—consistently achieve the capacity to glimpse the past, present, and perhaps even the future of the individuals who stand before her lens. Since the early 1980s, Ross has used a large-format, 8x10-inch view camera as a tool to capture the distilled essence of her brief encounters with a cross-section of the American people, with a focus on those in eastern Pennsylvania, where she was born and raised.

For Ross, whose stated purpose is “to notice what is going on with other people and to record it,” this has required a spontaneous and radical reformulation of the relationship between the photographer and the photographed. When successful, these encounters yield pictures that enable an acute emotional and psychological connection that resists sentimentality, upends prejudice, and traverses boundaries of time, place, and circumstance.

Featuring approximately 200 photographs, this exhibition charts Ross’s work through all her major projects as well as smaller series and individual images that have never been seen before. Together, these bodies of work explore what it means to be a citizen and a human being, forming a profound portrait of our age. The Philadelphia Museum of Art will be the only US venue for the exhibition, following its European tour in Madrid, Paris, and the Hague.

Free Audio Tour

Hear the stories behind these documentary-style portraits with an exclusive audio tour given by Judith Joy Ross, along with photography experts Rineke Dijkstra, Susan Kismaric, and exhibition curators. The free tour is available right on your smartphone. Headphones recommended.

Listen now

Main Building

About the Artist

Judith Joy Ross was born in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, in 1946. She graduated from the Moore College of Art in Philadelphia in 1968 and earned a master’s degree in Photography in 1970 from the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.

Ross has received a grant from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (1985), an Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (1986), a City of Easton/Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Grant (1988), the Charles Pratt Memorial Award (1992), and a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Grant (1991). Her photographs are included in numerous institutional collections including those of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; among many others.

Portrait of Judith Joy Ross in Madrid. © Jesús Antón / Fundación MAPFRE


The exhibition is organized by the Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid, in collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art.


Judith Joy Ross has been made possible through the museum’s endowment with the Robert Montgomery Scott Endowment for Exhibitions, Kathleen C. and John J. F. Sherrerd Fund for Exhibitions, and the Lois G. and Julian A. Brodsky Installation and Exhibition Fund, and by additional contributions from Andrea Baldeck, M.D., Lois G. and Julian A. Brodsky, Robert and Julie Jensen Bryan, Julia and David Fleischner, Mr. and Mrs. S. Matthews V. Hamilton, Jr., Sarena Snider, Focus: Friends of Photography, and other generous donors.


The exhibition is curated by independent curator Joshua Chuang. In Philadelphia, the curatorial team also includes Peter Barberie, Brodsky Curator of Photographs, Alfred Stieglitz Center, with Amanda N. Bock, Lynne and Harold Honickman Assistant Curator of Photographs, and Molly Kalkstein, Horace W. Goldsmith Curatorial Fellow in Photography.

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