Richard Ross: Architecture of Authority

Overview

For the past several years--and with seemingly limitless access--photographer Richard Ross has been making unsettling and thought-provoking pictures of architectural spaces that exert power over the individuals within them. From a Montessori preschool to churches, mosques and diverse civic spaces including a Swedish courtroom, the Iraqi National Assembly hall and the United Nations, the images in Architecture of Authority build to ever harsher manifestations of power: an interrogation room at Guantanamo, ...
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Overview

For the past several years--and with seemingly limitless access--photographer Richard Ross has been making unsettling and thought-provoking pictures of architectural spaces that exert power over the individuals within them. From a Montessori preschool to churches, mosques and diverse civic spaces including a Swedish courtroom, the Iraqi National Assembly hall and the United Nations, the images in Architecture of Authority build to ever harsher manifestations of power: an interrogation room at Guantanamo, segregation cells at Abu Ghraib, and finally, a capital punishment death chamber.
Though visually cool, this work deals with hot-button issues--from the surveillance that increasingly intrudes on post-9/11 life to the abuse of power and the erosion of individual liberty. The connections among the various architectures are striking, as Ross points out: "The Santa Barbara Mission confessional and the LAPD robbery homicide interrogation rooms are the same intimate proportions. Both are made to solicit a confession in exchange for some form of redemption." Essay by Harper's Magazine publisher, John R. MacArthur, also a columnist for the Toronto Globe and Mail.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Ross (photography, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara; Waiting for the End of the World) has traveled far and put himself at risk to photograph mostly small places of confinement or detainment (e.g., segregation cells at Abu Ghraib prison; a confessional booth in a Catholic church). Though an impassioned essay by John R. MacArthur (president & publisher, Harper's) raves here about Ross and his photographs while railing against the institutions that build such horrible spaces, this reviewer, for one, is not buying in. Are prisons expected to look like the lobby of the Ritz Carlton? Does a DMV waiting room destroy the people it serves because its blue fiberglass bucket seats set against a gray wall take the joy out of registering a used Chevy? If Ross's point is that these grimy, dank, depersonalized rooms, corridors, and cells are ugly-well, they are. Are they often designed to dehumanize and to elicit information? Yes, though that's hardly surprising. This book is useful for those seeking a common thread among places constructed with a purpose and no aesthetics across cultures. But as a photo essay, it tells us little we don't already know or could not imagine. Recommended only for large collections with large budgets.
—D. Bryant

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597110525
  • Publisher: Aperture Foundation
  • Publication date: 9/28/2007
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

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