Q&A: Judith Black — Vacation (Stanley Barker)


  1. Q. Have you recently been living by any life philosophy?
    A. Try to do no harm. You get a 50/50 chance of doing the right thing.
  2. Q. What will baffle future generations about our day and age?
    A. What future generations? Will there be any? Why there was so little action on climate change will be top of their list.
  3. Q. Are you aware of any conspiracies?
    A. I have a few of my own which I try to keep to myself. Like how do the super christian guys who want to outlaw birth control have only two children?
  4. Q. What is it that interests you about photography?
    A. So many things… the ability to render an image in a fraction of a second. How wonderful cameras are. The printmaking in the darkroom. Translating the physical world into a flat image. And, top of the list, the memories attached to each image.
  5. Q. What is the worst thing about city life?
    A. Rats digging in my yard.
  6. Q. What part of the planet would you like to explore?
    A. I had lots of places on my travel list, but each year reduces the actual possibilities as age and global problems increase. Maybe seeing Egypt, a childhood dream, would be top of the list.
  7. Q. What do you think is the most plausible of the supernatural?
    A. Marvel Comics super-heroes.
  8. Q. If you had to align yourself with a leader in history, who would it be?
    A. Any number of women from politicians to poets to artists to brave women everywhere. Unrecognized leaders!
  9. Q. Pick a field of science to be an expert within.
    A. Basic medical science and molecular biology…I was the photo secretary for a lab that did this kind of research. They wanted to find out what does a little virus look like and how does it move. Totally beyond my brain level, but totally amazing work.
  10. Q. What moment have you most wished you’d had a camera when you hadn’t?
    A. I wish I had more film for the cameras I had.
  11. Q. Choose a job you would be willing to do for free on the side.
    A. The primary work of Being a care taker/mother/father is free work, but not acknowledged in the global economy. But we do it willingly.
  12. Q. Describe the most important photo you’ve seen.
    A. Too hard to choose just one. One that comes to mind is by Robert Frank titled “No More Good-byes”
  13. Q. How often do you take other people’s advice?
    A. Mostly with a grain of salt…which means pick the part of the advice you can agree with and follow through on.
  14. Q. Describe a personal hell.
    A. Deciding what to fix for dinner every day!
  15. Q. On what occasion do you lie?
    A. I try to keep my mouth shut instead of out and out lying.
  16. Q. What was the last crime you witnessed?
    A. All the republican politicians and media commentators who have aligned themselves with the Big Lie here in the US.
  17. Q. What is the best way to educate yourself?
    A. Learn from your mistakes, make a lot of them. Also, learn from those who came before you and acknowledge them. Take a class where you get feedback from people you respect. Just do it.
  18. Q. What is the next book you want to read?
    A. V.S. Naipaul, A House For Mr. Biswas
  19. Q. What object do you want?
    A. I’m at the point of finding good homes for objects, not acquiring more. But we just bought a beautiful stained glass piece from a friend who does amazing work.
  20. Q. What object do you need?
    A. Storage space for the archive I can’t get rid of. Boxes and boxes of prints and negatives.
  21. Q. Describe a cheap thrill.
    A. Watching the screen saver scroll through screenshot of my photos. A virtual family album in a random order that always surprises.
    Q. Are impulses more important than consequences?
    No. And Yes. Not so good at choosing one option in these binary questions!
  22. Q. Which talent would you most like to have?
    A. An ability to speak another language and play music.
  23. Q. What is your plan for the next 24 hours?
    A. Enjoy the longest day of light in the northern hemisphere. Summer Solstice!


In 1986, the American artist Judith Black was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship with the intention of documenting a cross-country road trip with her four children. Unlike Robert Frank’s iconic Guggenheim-funded road trip 30 years earlier, Black’s mission was much more intimate. Rather than documenting America, her intention was to photograph her children, friends, and family as she traversed the country. Her itinerary included stops in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and various sights along the way.

During the trip, Black visited her aunt at the Michigan cabin, where as a child Black and her family went each August to avoid the brutal summer heat of her hometown Springfield, Illinois. Ironically, it was there at the age of seven that Black purchased her first Brownie camera, while staying with her grandmother.

After returning to Massachusetts, Black continued photographing family and friends during vacations, recording various celebrations, birthdays, reunions, and births.

“Sweet memories and histories embedded in each photograph.” – Judith Black

Judith Black’s Vacation is available now through Stanley Barker. For more information visit — stanleybarker.co.uk


Known for her large format photographs using Polaroid Type 55 black and white film documenting the domestic interior and exterior, Judith Black has been a practicing photographer since 1979, when she entered the MIT photography program leading to a Master of Science in Visual Studies in 1981. During that time she realized that her most potent subject matter was close to home, recording her family of four children and partner. She has been a photographer with an eye for the strange and marvelous in the everyday, she has focused her lens with precision, humor, and deadpan reckoning. Her photographs of domestic life in its many dimensions have been exhibited throughout the US and abroad. A recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1986, Black was part of a new wave of photographers arising in the 1980s whose work revealed how the domestic interior, the lives of children, and the daily habits of the family are filled with meaning and arresting visual interest.

Grounded in both the craft and the theory of photographic representation, Black taught in the Art Department at Wellesley College from 1987 to 2010. She was the head of the photography area and was instrumental in creating and co-directing the Media Arts and Science program in concert with the Computer Science department.

Judith Black’s work has been shown at museums internationally and is included in permanent collections such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Huston Museum of Modern Art, the Fogg Museum at Harvard University, the Polaroid International Collection and the Davis Museum and Cultural Center at Wellesley College.

Judith Black — Website / Instagram