Richard Ross Documents Juvenile Incarceration in America

January 23, 2013 | Eugene Reznik

Close to 70,000 American youths are incarcerated in detention centers around the country on a daily basis. The cost to keep them there for a 9-12 month period ranges anywhere from $66,000 to $224,715 at the most in California.

“Juvenile-In-Justice,” one of Richard Ross’ most socially engaged series yet, documents the conditions of this system with over 2000 images of juveniles and administrators across hundreds of facilities in 31 states.

Thematically the work is akin to Michal Chelbin’s series, “Sailboats and Swans,” formal posed portraits of incarcerated juveniles across Russia and Ukraine, at Andrea Meislin Gallery last year. Stylistically though, it’s far removed.

The spaces of American detention centers are austere, to say the least, lacking the almost ironic, festive wallpaper of their post-Soviet counterparts. The interiors benefit from Ross’ quiet restraint and emblematic geometric obsession well established in his 2007 monograph Architecture of Authority.

In contrast to some of the intimacy of Chelbin’s work, Ross’ presents a somber, haunting sense of distance and isolation. Faces are mostly unseen or obscured in a effort to protect the identities of the subjects. Three out of four child inmates are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses.

“Juvenile-In-Justice,” Richard Ross, Jan 5-Feb 16, Ronald Feldman Gallery, New York