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Randy Sartori, 1st Grade, Mrs. Starkey’s Class, A.D. Thomas Elementary School, Hazleton, Pennsylvania
Randy Sartori gazes out at us in a moment of stillness amidst the bustle of his first-grade class. Details like the background chalkboard and writing charts locate the familiar setting. His desk feels too big for him, his feet do not touch the ground, and his line of sight barely clears the top of the desk. Though he sits in the center of the room, he appears withdrawn from the community of his class. What is Randy’s demeanor communicating in this moment?
Photographer Judith Joy Ross raises this question in part through her photographic process. Ross uses a large-format camera mounted on a tripod that requires a long exposure so her sitters must remain still for several seconds, sacrificing an immediate expression for a settled one. Through this work from one of Ross’s best-known projects—a series of portraits from the Hazleton, Pennsylvania, public schools where she was a student herself in the 1950s and 1960s—the photographer reflects on her own schooling while inviting us to recollect our own experiences.
This photograph was selected for the Snite Museum Permanent Collection by the students who participated in the seminar PhotoFutures 2019: Sarah Harper ’20, Abigail Patrick ’22, Claire Stein ’22, Cameron Sumner ’21, and Stanley Ying ’21. Under the instruction of Curator of Education, Academic Programs Bridget Hoyt and Curator of Photographs David Acton, they were challenged to recommend a photograph that engaged the theme of “American education” in a meaningful way, added value to the Snite Museum’s collection, and supported the mission of the University. The students agreed that Ross’s photograph “sparks a collective examination of the role of education in a young person’s life and encourages the viewer to draw upon their own varied experiences within the American educational system.”
from Calendar of Events, January-August 2020