Richard Ross

IntroAmerican photographer
Is Photographer 
From United States of America 
Type Arts 
Birth 1947 
Age73 years
John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship 

Richard Ross is an artist/activist/photographer, distinguished research professor of art based in Santa Barbara, California. Best known for his body of work Juvenile-in-Justice, his work turns a lens on the placement and treatment of American juveniles housed by law in facilities that treat, confine, punish, assist and, occasionally, harm them. Ross has been the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Annie E. Casey Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Center for Cultural Innovation. Ross was awarded both Fulbright and Guggenheim Fellowships. Three books and traveling exhibitions of the work continue to see great success while Ross collaborates with juvenile justice stakeholders, using the images as a catalyst for change.

His latest projects shifts from kids in detention to those in dependency and dual custodies to now markers of success. The focus is now towards being an advocate’s advocate and creating compelling stories for legislators to get better outcomes for kids in juvenile detention, foster care and dependency systems.

Published works

Ross’s first book, Museology, a photographic examination of museums and the display of art and historical objects, was published by Aperture Foundation in 1989 and features an introduction by Marcia Tucker, founder of the New Museum and former curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and an essay by David Mellor, art historian and curator.

His second book, Gathering Light explores natural and artificial light and its intrinsic relationship to photography itself through photographs of objects and places from all over the world. The book featured an introduction by Dave Hickey, a prominent art and culture critic, and an essay by Eduardo Cadava, faculty in the Department of English at Princeton University.

Published in 2004, Ross’s third book, Waiting for the End of the World is compiled of photographs of bomb and other underground shelters the world over, including an underground city in Beijing, China. Michael Darling, chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, wrote about Waiting for the End of the World that “Ross’s images of bomb shelters represent a crushing indictment of the current state of world affairs as well as a clarion call to action.” The book features an interview with Richard Ross by Sarah Vowell, a New York Times best selling author.

After Waiting for the End of the World Ross published three books compiling successful U.S patent applications from the last century; Patently Ridiculous, Patently Erotic and Patently Christmas. The books were published by Plume.

In 2007, with Aperture Foundation, Ross published Architecture of Authority. The book was included in Photo District News best books of 2007 and the accompanying exhibition was number 10 on the ArtForum list of best shows of 2007. The book features an essay by John R. MacArthur, publisher of Harper’s Magazine.

Ross’s first book covering the U.S. juvenile justice system, Juvenile in Justice, was published in 2012 with a foreword by Ira Glass and an essay by Bart Lubow. The nearly 150 images in the book were made over 5 years of visiting more than 1,000 youth confined in more than 200 juvenile institutions in 31 states.

Girls in Justice, the much-anticipated follow up to Juvenile in Justice, turns our focus specifically to girls in the juvenile justice system. Girls in Justice, was published in 2015 with a foreword by Marian Wright Edelman and an essay from Maisha T. Winn. With appallingly high rates of abuse in their histories, exploitation around every corner, and a very different set of needs once ‘inside,’ girls are brought into the juvenile justice system by a unique set of social forces and experience incarceration much differently than boys. While the number of youth in the juvenile justice system has steadily declined, girls are a growing share of youth arrested, detained and committed.

Juvie Talk: Unlocking the language of juvenile in justice, is the third book of the award winning in Justice series. This book and accompanying website, Juvie Talk, are meant to be a curricular tool for a discussion of human rights, mass incarceration and the potential for children to succeed. While it is important to be able to empathize with these kids, it is also critical to realize there are multitudes of ways the words can be spoken, and even be rewritten. Peter Sellars offers ideas about the nature of theater and roles in an essay for Juvie Talk.


Ross has exhibited his work extensively both nationally and internationally. Some of his solo exhibitions include ACME in Los Angeles (Architecture of Authority), Aperture Gallery in New York (Architecture of Authority), the National Building Museum in Washington D.C (Architecture of Authority), the Orange County Museum of Art (Gathering Light), the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (Gathering Light), and the Sonnenberg in Lucerne, Switzerland (Waiting for the End of the World). His work has also been included in group exhibitions at the Tate Modern in London, England (Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera), the Ansel Adams Center for Photography (Beyond Boundaries), Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco, California (Teen age: You Just Don’t Understand), Ronald Feldman Gallery in New York (Face Off) and The Guggenheim Gallery at Chapman University (New, Used, Borrowed).


Since 1977 Ross has taught at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He teaches photography and photojournalism.