Ron Jude brings new life to his early photographs.
By Luka Starmer ’11
Can a photograph capture any moment in its full, sensational intricacies and preserve it as an accurate, tangible representation of our memory? Ron Jude, associate professor of cinema, photography, and media arts, explores this notion of nostalgia in his newest photo book titled emmett.
The body of work was originally a mélange of unrelated photos taken in the early 1980s. They were shot by Jude when he was 18 to 20 years old and was developing his artistic eye in central Idaho. A shoebox full of prints lay forgotten, resting in his mother’s house for 30 years, slowly losing their original contexts as the American culture and landscape evolved. They have since reemerged as a vintage collection of fragmentary photographic narratives.
“I kind of looked at my own photographs almost as if they weren’t mine,” says Jude. “They were taken so long ago; most of them I don’t even have a memory of taking.”
The concept of stringing together relatively arbitrary source material is reminiscent in style to one of Jude’s previous books, Alpine Star, in which he poetically sequenced a series of black and white photos originally printed in his hometown newspaper.
“Ultimately, emmett is an archive project,” Jude says. “It finds its meaning to some degree through the content of the individual images, but I think the real weight of the project depends on fitting the pieces together in just the right way.”
The book was published in October 2010 by Ice Plant. In January 2011, the collection opened as a solo exhibition at Gallery Luisotti in Santa Monica, California. Selections from the book were also published in the fifth edition of Stone Canoe: A Journal of Arts, Literature, and Social Commentary, a publication highlighting artists and writers of international renown who have ties to upstate New York.
“I think we all have this idea that photography somehow allows you to hold onto something in terms of knowledge when, in fact, it’s really usually just an illusion,” says Jude of his medium.
“The fact that these photographs were taken over 25 years ago is inseparable from the intent of the project,” he adds. “The nostalgia that’s conjured up through the dated look of the pictures — as well as the subjects themselves — brings the idea of ‘the past’ into play.”
Read artist’s statement here. View a selection of the emmett collection below.