Elliot ROSS


Elliot Ross was born in Chicago. He received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1971. His work has been exhibited internationally and is in collections in the United States and abroad, including those of the Bibliothéque nationale de France, Paris; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Musée de la Photographie, Charleroi, Belgium. His project Animal has been featured in solo exhibitions and publications in Europe and the United States. FotoMAGAZIN (Germany) published a portfolio of images from Animal as part of its Meisterwerke der Fotografie (Masterpieces of Photography) series in 2008. In 2009, Animal was a finalist for a New York Photo Award. The critically acclaimed book Animal (ISBN: 978 90 5330 730 4) was published by Schilt Publishing, Amsterdam, in 2010. He lives in San Francisco and New York with his wife, the writer Ellen Ullman.




Thank God I didn’t know what I was doing.”

—William Kentridge


Objects of Contemplation

When asked about what I do when I make a photograph, my first thought is that I don’t work conceptually. In other words, I don’t have an idea or concept which I am trying to illustrate, investigate, or portray. Having been a conceptual artist earlier in my life, I discovered this approach to be too confining, so I abandoned it.

What I do instead is act upon a compelling emotion by making an object of contemplation in the form of a photograph. This is the beginning of a process.

In the case of Animal, a project I began in 2007, and in which there are, so far, perhaps a hundred images, the initial emotion was too complex to define, and concerned the reaction I had to a photograph of the only non-human animal with which I have ever lived, Sadie the cat.

More than twenty years old, Sadie the cat had died after suffering from several severe illnesses over several years’ time. During those years, my wife Ellen and I kept Sadie alive by forcing pills down her throat, administering sub-cutaneous fluids by injection to the neck, and in other ways ministering to her failing health. In short, we established the kind of physical intimacy that only caregivers can have with a patient.

After Sadie’s death, Ellen pinned a snapshot she had made of the living Sadie to a wall in our apartment. This was not an ordinary snapshot but an extreme close-up of Sadie apparently staring into the camera’s lens—an image amazingly evocative of her living presence.

As you might imagine, what predominated in my mind at first were feelings of loss and sadness. What followed, however, were feelings of puzzlement about life, both human and non-human. Questions, but vague questions. Perhaps kept purposely vague, because I wanted to experience the emotion as fully as possible. I say “perhaps” because even my thoughts and motivations were unclear. In retrospect, I think I was trying to avoid the phenomenon known as verbal overshadowing in which the left hemisphere of the brain, which thinks in words, displaces the product of the right hemisphere, which thinks in pictures—the description that kills the image.

What I did, eventually, know I wanted to do was photograph a variety of non-human animals so that I could look at them, get to know them better, as one can only do through rendering them in an artistic medium, while allowing myself the freedom to make transformative changes, and then look at them again. These are the aforementioned “objects of contemplation.”

But the process hasn’t ended there. Working on a series of images the way I do, there is always a cumulative effect—the way preceding images affect my current focus. And while I don’t want to describe what I do, or have done, in words, I haven’t avoided the words of others. I’ve read everything I can find, from Darwin to Derrida, on animals—biology, ethology, genetics, philosophy, and ecology. These readings have informed my work in some small and subtle ways and have certainly made me feel more educated. I now know something of what we share with other animals and something of what we don’t share as separate species—and that, because of what we don’t share, we can never completely know what it is like to be a lemur, a pig, a gorilla, a pigeon, a fish, an antelope, or a rabbit.


Born 1947, Chicago, Illinois



San Francisco Art Institute, Master of Fine Arts, 1971



Other Animals, Schilt Publishing, Amsterdam, 2014

Animal, Schilt Publishing, Amsterdam, 2010

Yehudhith, Hawkhaven Press, San Francisco, 2004

Spleen (after Baudelaire), San Francisco, 1984



2015    Elliot Ross: Animals, Schilt Publishing Gallery, Amsterdam, Netherlands

2014    Other Animals, Alan Klotz Gallery, New York, New York

2012    Other Animals, United Photo Industries, DUMBO, Brooklyn, New York

Animal, Nassauische Kunstverein Wiesbaden, Wiesbaden, Germany

2011    Animal, Belfast Photo Festival, Belfast, United Kingdom

Yehudhith, The Arts at CIIS, San Francisco, California

2010    Animal, LUX Photo Gallery, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Animal, Griffin Museum of Photography, Winchester, Massachusetts
2007    Yehudhith, Stredoslovénska galeriá, Banská Bystrica, Slovakia

2005    Yehudhith, Prague House of Photography, Prague, Czech Republic

Yehudhith, Muzeum SNP, Banská Bystrica, Slovakia

Yehudhith, House of Photography, Poprad, Slovakia

2004    Yehudhith, Jewish Museum San Francisco, California

1996    Spleen (after Baudelaire), Side Street Projects, Santa Monica, California

1994    Spleen (after Baudelaire), Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery, Nashville, Tennessee

Spleen (after Baudelaire), Photography Gallery, Department of Art, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana

Spleen (after Baudelaire), The Light Factory Center for Photographic Arts, Charlotte, North Carolina

1993    Spleen (after Baudelaire), Gallery, Department of Cinema and Photography, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois

1992    Spleen (after Baudelaire), WorkSpace Art Gallery, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado

1991    Spleen (after Baudelaire), Feldheym Library Galleries, San Bernardino, California


2017    The AIPAD Photography Show, NY, Alan Klotz Gallery, March

2016    The AIPAD Photography Show, NY, Alan Klotz Gallery, April

2015    The AIPAD Photography Show, NY, Alan Klotz Gallery, April

2014    The AIPAD Photography Show, NY, Alan Klotz Gallery, April

2013    Difficult Art and the Liberal Arts Imagination, Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery,   

      Nashville, Tennessee, USA, 2013

      Fear and Loathing, Art Photo Index Exhibitions, 2013

2010    Davis Orton Gallery, Hudson, New York, 2010

New Visionaires 2009, New York Photo Festival, Brooklyn, New York

The Museum of Unnatural History, ClampArt, New York, New York

2009    Staring, Van Every/Smith Galleries, Davidson College, Davidson, North Carolina

Photographers: Network 2009, studio Thomas Kellner, Siegen, Germany

New Works/Old Story, Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, California

2005    Scents of Purpose, Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, California

2003    Artists’ Books from Nashville Collections, Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery, Nashville, Tennessee

2001    Face to Face: Contemporary Portraits, University Art Gallery, California State University, Chico, California

Neural Notations, The Physics Room, Christchurch, New Zealand

2000    Neural Notations, San Francisco Art Commission Gallery, San Francisco, California

Neural Notations, Sesnon Gallery, University of California, Santa Cruz, California

1996    San Francisco Art Institute: Fifty Years of Photography, Trans-America Pyramid, San Francisco, California

1994    Forecast: Shifts in Direction, Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe, New Mexico

The Post-Industrial Landscape, San Francisco Art Commission Gallery, San Francisco, California

1993    Visible Language, New Works Gallery, University of Illinois, Chicago, Illinois

1991    Six Photographers, Hung Chong Art Gallery, Taipei, China

1988    The Concealed Camera, Eye Gallery, San Francisco, California

1986    Cross Currents II: Recent Additions to the Collection, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California

Fifth Anniversary Exhibition, Eye Gallery, San Francisco, California

1985    Extending the Perimeters of Twentieth-Century Photography, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California

Past Presence/Contemporary Sources, College of Notre Dame Art Gallery, Belmont, California

1981    Twentieth Anniversary Exhibition, Ruth Braunstein Gallery, San Francisco, California

1979    San Francisco Camerawork Gallery, San Francisco, California

1976    The Eyes Have It: Photographic Images, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, California

Photo/Synthesis, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

1975    Information, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, California, USA, 1975

1974    Light and Substance (exhibition curated by Van Deren Coke), Claremont College, Pomona, California

Light and Substance University of California, Santa Barbara, California

Light and Substance Everson Museum, Syracuse, New York

1973    Light and Substance Art Museum, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico

1971    San Francisco Art Institute Centennial Exhibition, M.H. DeYoung Memorial Museum, San Francisco, California

Critic’s Choice, Focus Gallery, San Francisco, California


Selected Collections

Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, France

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Houston, Texas

Musée de la Photographie, Charleroi, Belgium

Art Museum, University of California, Berkeley, California

Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, California

Het Groote Museum, Artis, Amsterdam, Netherlands

University of New Mexico Art Museum, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California

San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, California

Judah L. Magnes Museum, Berkeley, California

Pomona College Museum of Art, Pomona, California


Selected Publications

“Elliot Ross, Animal Studies,” Sacha Waldron, Point102 (UK), December 28, 2015

"Gli Animali Ci Guardano," Paola Tavella, Amica (Italy), No. 6, June, 2015

"Other Animals: An Interview with Elliot Ross," Sacha Waldron, Point102, February 9, 2015

 "Elliot Ross, Animals at Schilt Gallery," L'Oeil de la Photographie, January 22, 2015

"Other Animals," Franziska Sauerwein, Guide to Unique Photography (GUP Magazine), December 9, 2014

 "PhotoBook Month: Elliot Ross — Other Animals," Harry Ross, Darwin Magazine, Vol. 6, November, 2014

"Elliot Ross: Fotografije Zivotinja koje opasno podsjećaju na ljude," Gordan Duhacek, Tportal, 18.11.2014

"Photobook: "Other Animals," Die Zeit, 14-11-2014

"Elliot Ross: Animals," Margarete Morissey, Obvious Magazine, March, 2013

"Elliot Ross: Animals," Le Journal de la Photographie, February 20, 2013

"Non-human Feelings," Vladimir Neskoromny, Foto & Video (Moscow), No. 6, June, 2012

"Elliot Ross Animal," Landscape Stories, Issue 05, Animals, September 2011

"Pictures from the Belfast Photographic Festival," BBC News, bbc.co.uk, 3 August 2011

"Elliot Ross at the Belfast Photo Festival," The Telegraph, the telegraph.com.uk, 26 July 2011

“Neue Bücher,” Denis Brudna, Photonews, Nr. 6/11, June, 2011

"Just One Look," William Kennedy, Sublime Magazine, Issue 27, June - July, 2011

“Animal Instincts,” Chris Bergeron, MetroWest Daily News, February 14, 2010

“A Look at Animals, Real and Unreal,” Mark Feeney, The Boston Globe, February 4, 2010

“Tierportaits des US-Fotokünstlers Elliot Ross,” (Masterpiece of Photography Series #15), Manfred Zollner, fotoMAGAZIN, Nr. 7, July 2008

“Auf der Suche nach den Stars von morgen,” Manfred Zollner, fotoMAGAZIN.de, June 23, 2008

“Houston FotoFest — Entdeckungen vom Meeting Place,” Anna Gripp, Photonews, Mai 2008

“Výstava fotografií o holocauste,” Martin Krupa, VÚC BB Portál, June 25, 2007

“Prazsky dum fotografie: Elliot Ross – Yehudhith,” Peter Volf, Combinacion, September 4, 2005

“Se smutkem ve tvári, s hrodosti v dusi,” Lubor Falteisek, Maskil, September/October 2005

“Zenske telo a holocaust,” Edita Pacovska, fotografovani.cz, September 2, 2005

“O ženství a o židovstvi,” Libuše Mohelská, DIGIarena.cz, August 25, 2005

“Schatten des Holocaust,” Bára Procházková, Radio Prague, radio.cz, August 22, 2005

“Ross hleda v tvarich zen stigma holocaustu,” Magdalena Cechlovska, Kultura, August 18, 2005

“Holocaust v teple ateliéru,” Matěj Stránský, Respekt.cz, August 14, 2005

“Poselstvi zidovskych zen,” Josef Chuchma, iDNES.cz, August 12, 2005

“Fotograf Elliot Ross a smutek židovských ženaa,” Jiří Vanča, Pikant, August 3, 2005

“Out of the Darkroom: Photos of Modern Jewish Women Spin Shoah into New Light,” Joe Eskenazi, J, April, 2005

“Aj ja som sa mohol stoť jednou z obeti,” Andrea Kopernická, Sme, February 16, 2005

“They Are Haunting Photographs that Recall a Time the World Will Never Forget…” Jonathan Curiel, San Francisco Chronicle, May 15, 2004