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Why I love Hallways by richard ross


“I rob banks because that’s where the money is.” - Willie Sutton


I make images of a certain scale and accessibility because I want them to be shown in the hallways and institutions where the policy makers are.

An extensive exhibition of the work is currently up at American University. All are 24”x37” images mounted to the walls with magnets. Next to recycling, trash, vending machines, couches. It doesn’t matter. It’s where the future policy makers of American are studying. In the Fall the work will be at Georgetown Law. I am a nightmare for facilities management. They have never done this before, but they do buy in after a bit. They are simply not used to the walls being this activated.


A lovely artist friend who will be showing at the American University Museum next year suggested the work should be bigger, have more of a presence, stature. I tried to explain that by doing them larger would make them less accessible to this population. It would commodify the work and make it into an artifact rather than a conduit to tell the story of these people.


Hallways of institutions where we frame the conversation for a new generation.....are where this work has to be.....

Where people need this critical discussion.

Somehow it comes down to the Willie Sutton quote…..

It’s where the money is.

[60 Minutes + CNN] The National Memorial for Peace and Justice by richard ross

Advocacy takes many forms and iterations. It was personally rewarding when someone of the stature of Bryan Stevenson discussed the work and the issues while looking at my images on 60 minutes last night. I do hope it influences people to consider the plight of these kids in the context of this great new museum in Montgomery. Thanks Bryan. Thanks Oprah. Thanks CBS.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice

[Equal Voice] A Look at Life Inside Youth Jails by richard ross

As the U.S. debates criminal justice reform, few outsiders have entered the world of youth in custody. Richard Ross, a California-based documentary photographer, has done so. Equal Voice News is sharing some of his images and the stories he has collected over the years. The Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights calls the photographs a “glimpse into the hidden world of juvenile incarceration.”

Read the report and browse the gallery here.

[NOLA Lens] With youths still in danger in OPP, group pushes again for separate facility by richard ross

Read the report here.

Since December, public officials have been trying to figure out whether all juveniles can be moved from Orleans Parish Prison, and how much it would cost.

Earlier this year, a working group assembled by Mayor Mitch Landrieu met at City Hall to discuss conditions teens face in Orleans Parish Prison. Members of New Orleans City Council heard testimony from judges, youth advocates, the City Attorney’s Office and the council’s Criminal Justice Committee.

Despite the jail’s court-ordered reforms, Councilwoman Susan Guidry, who runs the Criminal Justice Committee, found just one guard is on duty for every dozen juveniles. For their protection, teenagers in custody were confined to cells for up to 23 hours a day. Yet still, somehow, they were being harassed and beaten.

[Independent, KCRW] ISOLATED by richard ross

Simultaneously with the opening of Juvenile in Justice's exhibition titled ISOLATED, KCRW in Santa Barbara interviewed Richard on site in the gallery, and The Independent wrote a nice piece on the exhibition. Additionally, Santa Barbara City College's student-run newspaper also ran a short article.


We're thrilled to have the opportunity show in our hometown and invoke change in the solitary confinement practices of the California justice system.


The photos Ross takes are ordinarily designed to protect the privacy of his subjects, but his new installation was designed with an eye to invading the privacy of someone else — the viewer. “I like it that it’s distracting,” Ross says to me as the sound of taped testimony interrupts our conversation. “It should be distracting because that’s what life is like for these kids.” — Charles Donelan, writing for The Independent

[KCRW] World Isn't Worth Saving if the Price Is a Tear of an Innocent Child by richard ross

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Last night on KCRW's Art Talk Edward Goldman briefed listeners on Ross and his work to document the state of the juvenile justice system. Here is an excerpt from the show:

Ross was able to gain access to various American juvenile detention facilities, where kids as young as 10 are being incarcerated for an unreasonably long period of time – sometimes even in isolation. Part of the deal with detention authorities was that the kids' faces in these photographs should be blurred or not seen at all. Still, their body language and the way Ross composed his images speak loudly about the emotional devastation of this experience.

    These images walk a fine line between documentary and an artistic statement, without diminishing the power of either. As a result, we are compelled to look at them, and to look at them again, paying attention to every detail, trying to comprehend what is going on with these kids. I wonder what Pope Francis and Justice Kennedy would have to say about these photos.


The full piece is on KCRW's website here.

[Konbini] Juvenile in Justice: Richard Ross Shot The Grim Lives of Kid Convicts by richard ross

The website Konbini published "Juvenile in Justice: Richard Ross Shot The Grim Lives of Kid Convicts":

 V., also aged 17 explained the terrible conditions he had encountered at the horrendous jail complex of Rikers Island, located in the Bronx:

Everything there was horrible. The food. The beds. The guards. It was all horrible. We had to do so many strip searches. They never call you by your name; they call you by your number. The stuff I saw at Rikers changed up my act. There are things you just can’t understand but if you’re on the street you understand them differently.

[TIME] Inside America’s Juvenile-Detention System by richard ross

Today, writing for Time's blog Lightbox, Carmen Winant published  "Inside America’s Juvenile-Detention System" featuring 16 of our photos and an interview with Ross. We think the readers of TIME will benefit from seeing the images and hearing about the project, and we hope to expand the discussion of the juvenile justice system and the need for reform.

As a teacher, I regularly have conversations with my students about how art can and should function. What constitutes an object as belonging in a gallery as opposed to a community? Who instituted these boundaries? Is it possible to make art that occupies both worlds? Finally, can art in either world effect real change? None of these questions are easily answered, or even attempted. The photographic work of Richard Ross dares engage their premise.

[Mother Jones] These Photos Show What Life Is Like for Girls in Juvenile Detention by richard ross

Last week,  wrote about Richard's work and featured some images on Mother Jones:

We confine and often demonize a group of kids who have been abused and violated by the very people who should be protecting and loving them," writes Ross, who also won a 2012 National Magazine Award for a photo collection on juvenile justice, in the preface. "These girls in detention and commitment facilities are further abused by an organized system that can't recognize or respond to their history and their needs…Is this the only solution we can offer?"



[Slate] What It’s Like to Be a Girl in America’s Juvenile Justice System by richard ross

Yesterday, Jordan Teicher published "What It’s Like to Be a Girl in America’s Juvenile Justice System" on Slate. The post contains nine of our images and a lovely interview by Jordan.

“We say, ‘It’s better than having them on the streets.’ But that doesn't address the issue of why their neighborhoods aren’t better places to live. Just by the zip codes they’re in. It’s more likely these kids will go to jail than college. The kid hasn’t failed; we’ve failed,” he said.

We are honored to be featured on Slate.