Portraying the faces of protest
JUDITH JOY ROSS:
I always hated the war. I hated the war from the very first second. But I was afraid to have an opinion publicly, share it with people I know, because many people I know are for the war.
I felt like you weren’t supposed to disagree.
I decided to photograph protesters at long last when I became honest about how I hated the war. I went to one march in Washington. Big deal. There was no peace movement. I was also ashamed of that.
I felt always lucky to live here, but never like, “Gee, I’m proud to be an American.” So maybe my lack of pride in being an American prevented me and gagged me. And I’m definitely cowardiced from taking, yet again, one more stand.
But I went nuts when I saw how people looked when they were thinking about the war. My intention was to use the portraits of them as propaganda against the war.
It will present to the public, an idea of what protesters really look like and reinventing for America that a protester is this and not the idea that’s in the mind, that a protester’s some kind of a raging fool, maniac, the enemy, the other; but it’s these people.
And then all these people will become protesters. So that was a real good inspiration. Plus, the pictures were terrific. I had no problem walking up to a total stranger and saying, “I’m Judith Ross. I— making portraits of people who are against the war. Are you against the war?”
And being naïve is a really good starting point for making art. Because if think you know what you’re doing, forget about— you— [laughs] Soon, art will make you forget about your stupid ideas.
So it’s about looking at the real world. And oh, for God’s sake, what is more wonderful than looking at the real world?
Please note that artwork locations are subject to change, and not all works are on view at all times. If you are planning a visit to SFMOMA to see a specific work of art, we suggest you contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm it will be on view.
Only a portion of SFMOMA's collection is currently online, and the information presented here is subject to revision. Please contact us at email@example.com to verify collection holdings and artwork information. If you are interested in receiving a high resolution image of an artwork for educational, scholarly, or publication purposes, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.