Photographing Nostalgia

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.


The Photography Department at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art recently acquired four photographs from Professor Ron Jude's Other Nature project.