Commentary
5:00 am
Wed February 5, 2014

'Juvenile' A Powerful Look At Forgotten Children

The Ulrich Museum’s exhibition Juvenile in Justice presents the award–winning work of photographer Richard Ross.

His documentary photographs are a stark look at America’s youth who are currently housed in state-run juvenile detention centers. Ross has visited more than 300 of these centers in 31 states, including one in Sedgwick County.

On his visits, Ross conducted interviews with these kids – some as young as 10 years old – before taking their pictures. The subjects’ faces are blurred or obscured because they are minors. These kids are pictured sitting on their pathetically thin beds or curled up in the corner of unforgiving rooms. Excerpts from the interviews accompany the photographs.

While Ross is primarily interested in the juveniles, his photographic eye also catches the authoritarian environments that house them. Some images only feature the architecture. The concrete floors, the dirty pastel colors, speckled linoleum, rows of heavy doors, and surveillance technology are captured with the beauty of Modernist formalism.

Inside a small antechamber in the center of the museum’s gallery are the taped-off measurements of an average room these kids live in. Visitors are invited to walk into the space to feel the confines of such a living environment.

Juvenile in Justice is full of conflicting emotions. In fact, that’s what makes this show powerful. Through truly beautiful photography, Ross has given us access to these forgotten kids in these locked away spaces.