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Photographer Richard Ross to discuss Juvenile-in-Justice Project


March 12, 2012

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For the last five years, photographer Richard Ross has focused a powerful lens on American juveniles run afoul of the law.

He’s compiled what he calls “a database of unbiased and compelling photographic and textual evidence of a system that houses more than 100,000 kids every day.” He hopes his efforts will instigate policy reform. When Ross shot at the Cook County Detention Center, he said its director, Earl Dunlap, greeted him with “Welcome to the gates of Hell.”

Ross will speak as a part of Herron School of Art and Design’s Visiting Artists Lecture Series at 5:30 p.m. on April 18, 2012, in the Basile Auditorium of Eskenazi Hall.

His project, Juvenile-in-Justice, documents the placement and treatment of American juveniles in facilities that confine, punish, assist, and occasionally, harm them. The project includes images and interviews with more than 1,000 juveniles in more than 300 facilities in 30 states, Canada and Mexico.

“I have interviewed and photographed both pre-adjudicated and committed youth in the juvenile justice system,” Ross said. “I have made sure to keep the children’s identities unknown, by either photographing them from behind or obscuring their faces.

“I have photographed group homes, police departments, youth correctional facilities, juvenile courtrooms, high schools, shelters, Montessori classrooms, Child Protective Services interview rooms, maximum security lock-down and non-lock-down shelters, to name a few,” he said. Works from the project were featured in a photo spread in the October 2011 edition of Harper’s Magazine. In February, Ross was featured on PBS NewsHour. He has taught at the University of California, Santa Barbara since 1977.

Ross has been funded by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Fulbright and the Center for Cultural Innovation. He was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship in 2007 to complete Architecture of Authority, a body of work depicting architectural spaces worldwide that exert power over the individuals confined within them. ArtForum called it one of the best exhibitions of the year.

Ross will be joined at Herron by his daughter, Leela Cyd Ross. In addition to Juvenille-in-Justice, they will discuss the Fovea project, which describes a collection of soft-focus, nostalgic images, including a large-scale work they are collaborating on for the new Eskenazi Health Center in Indianapolis, and the Leela Cyd project, which includes an unbroken, four-year-long series of photographs Richard shot of Leela every morning before she went to school. Leela took over the final year of the project as a student at School of Visual Arts in New York.