Critical Mass Top 50, 2013

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Judy Gelles

www.judygelles.com


China - School for Migrant Children

USA - Inner City Public School

USA - Jewish Day School

USA - Inner City Public School

India - English Speaking Private School

Cricket Player

On Time

Wait to Go

USA - Inner City Public School

Fourth Grade
Judy Gelles

Over the past four years, I have interviewed and photographed 140 fourth grade students from a wide range of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds in China, India, and multiple areas of the United States. To conduct the photography and interview sessions, I spent one week at each of seven very different schools. I asked each student the same three questions: Who do you live with? What do you wish for? What do you worry about? Each student was photographed from the front and from the back. For the frontal images, the students were placed in the center of the frame and asked to look directly at the camera. Subtle differences in each child’s personality and cultural background were revealed through their poses and facial expressions in the resulting images. For the images in which the children face away from the camera I once again centered them in the frame. They were given freedom to pose however they wanted to. Then I selected portions of each child’s interview and superimposed the text on the image surrounding the child. Photographing the children from the back allowed the images to focus on their stories rather than their faces. The combination of frontal and reverse portraits allowed for the development of both personal and universal stories. The children are presented as individuals; however, their stories speak to greater pervasive truths and problems within our society. Told in their own words, their stories touch on some of our most pressing social issues and common human experiences: violence and safety, the environment, immigration, unemployment, adoption, changing family structures, the impact of the media and popular culture, love for friends and relatives, and interest in the world around us.