Richard Ross and Brian Ulrich

Richard Ross · Architecture of Authority
Brian Ulrich · Copia 

Architecture of Authority and Copia are ongoing projects by two American artists in response to events since 9/11.  Both Richard Ross and Brian Ulrich chose to examine architectural environments – largely interior spaces – to address issues of the past seven years.

Richard Ross’s concerns regarding increased surveillance and potential diminishment of personal liberties set him on a journey to document places designed to exert influence over the people within them.  Ross sought images of how authority – both subtle and overt – is expressed in architecture.  As Ross states, “Cells, interview rooms, and interrogation rooms have a certain familiarity around the globe, and every prison has its segregation cells, isolation areas, ‘the pit’, and ‘the hole.’  Architecture is not necessarily an innocent act of creativity.”

The images in Architecture of Authority progress from a Montessori preschool through high school hallways, the Department of Motor Vehicles, and confessionals… to the UN Security Council, FBI Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Force interview rooms, sites related to customs and border patrol, and segregation cells at Abu Ghraib.  Ross’s study of architecture examines communication: places where conversation may be transformed into interview, interrogation, or torture.  The human figure is almost entirely absent from Ross’s thought-provoking photographs, but often implied – a viewer can’t help imagining what it would be like to inhabit that prison cell or interrogation room.

Richard Ross was born in New York City in 1947 and has taught at the University of California, Santa Barbara, since 1977.  He recently received a Guggenheim award to continue photographing this series. Aperture, a not-for-profit organization devoted to photography and the visual arts, organized Architecture of Authority and produced the accompanying publication. 

While Ross pursued a study of many places which one would hope never to encounter, Brian Ulrich sought destinations which millions of Americans visit daily.  In 2001, citizens were encouraged to take to the malls to boost the United States economy through shopping, thereby equating consumerism with patriotism. 

Ulrich’s Copia (abundance) project, a direct response to that advice, is a long-term photographic examination of the peculiarities and complexities of the consumer-dominated culture in which we live.  Through large scale photographs taken within both big-box retail stores and the thrift shops that house our recycled goods, Copia explores not only the everyday activities of shopping, but the economic, cultural, social, and political implications of commercialism. It also alludes to the roles we play in self-destruction, over-consumption, and as targets of marketing and advertising. 

Brian Ulrich was born in 1971 in Northport, New York.  He currently lives and works in Chicago.  His work has recently been included in Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes organized by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and Young American Photography, currently touring Brussels, Belgium, and Cologne, Germany.