Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago acquires Professor Ron Jude's photographs
The Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago recently approved the acquisition of a block of work representing a cross-section of three bodies of work by Photography Professor Ron Jude.
Ron Jude has created a trilogy of projects, all originally conceptualized as books, based on his home state of Idaho. The first chapter is Alpine Star (2006), a project made using photographs culled exclusively from his hometown newspaper, The Star News. Jude grew up in McCall, Idaho, a small town in mid-state with a population of 2,900 people that swells to over 10,000 in the summer. In this project, Jude selects images that range from the mundane to the oddball, and masterfully sequences them for heightened impact, enhancing their mystery by omitting captions and context. The book has no text; the images intended to illustrate journalistic prose have been equalized—printed in black and white, often with the newsprint half-tone pattern visible. A collapsed bridge, sports, the wilderness, and various headshots and snapshots form a random assortment of images that ultimately invite an ascription of oblique strangeness to small town Idaho.
In the second chapter, emmett (2010), Jude resurrects and reprints photographs he took as a teenager in the 1980s to investigate the past as an idea and recognize the incomprehensible nature of self and place. Conveying scenes such as drag racing, teenagers, forests, rainbows, and lightning, the images reflect the cultural and sociological specificity of his teenage years—growing up in an isolated small town enclosed by nature long before the era of the Internet. Jude evokes and re-contextualizes these experiences in the present so that they also tell a new and ambiguous story that reflects his changing relationship to the photographs and the events and memories they convey over time. Indeed, Jude characterizes the viewer’s experience of the project as echoing the process of trying to piece together personal stories from slivers of memory with the aid of photographic documents. To this end, he repeats motifs, bringing the viewer back to the same subject again and again in a way that counters linear narrative progression. As he explains, “We build linear narratives about our lives, our relationships—our entire sense of ourselves—out of incomplete fragments. Photographs not only give us a false sense of the past, but they get in the way of deeper reflection. They act as verifiable, sentimentalized proof of something that doesn’t exist.”
The trilogy ends with Lick Creek Line (2012), an enigmatic photo essay about a fur trapper in Idaho that dances on the divide between documentation and fiction. In these pictures, a romantic, perhaps nostalgic, conception of the State of Idaho as a place where people live simple lives in untamed wilderness bumps up against more sinister stereotypes of backwoods characters who kill animals, wear plaid, and live in shacks full of dusty bottles, stuffed animal heads, and bloody instruments that attest to their hunting prowess. Jude also documents the reality of a natural landscape that is being continually blemished by new developments in pictures of a chairlift running across the tree canopy, a new housing development, and a wooden railing at the edge of a patio whose intricate design distracts from the grand mountain landscape behind it. Throughout the series, old competes with new, wilderness with the human attempt to tame it, and the overall lack of narrative arc encourages our reading of the project to vacillate between fact and fantasy.
Based in upstate New York, Ron Jude completed his MFA from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, and a BFA from Boise State University. His work is found in numerous collections, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; George Eastman House, Rochester, NY; the New Orleans Museum of Art; and the Georgia Museum of Contemporary Art in Atlanta. He teaches photography at Ithaca College.
Originally published in Intercom: Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago acquires Professor Ron Jude's photographs.