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By Susan J. Ross
Susan J. “Sue” Ross is a “photo-griot,” with a specialization in documenting images that portray the comings and goings of the African-American community—cultural, political, social and economic. In the African tradition, the griot is the oral historian, holding the essence of African history and culture through the word. Sue uses photographs to tell the stories of the African-American community, claiming,
I am primarily a people photographer, finding grace and dignity in the faces of our people.
Sue has combined her life’s work with her positions in government administration for the City of Atlanta, serving as photographer for many Atlanta events, including the annual Dream Jamborees, the 1988 Democratic Convention, the Atlanta Third World Film Festivals, the Atlanta Jazz Festivals, the Nelson Mandela visits, King Week, the National Black Arts Festivals, the Centennial Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, and as the informal, and sometimes formal, chronicler of activities during the administrations of Atlanta’s five African-American mayors. Currently, she serves as vendor development manager for the City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management.
Sue has exhibited widely since 1985, including the Atlanta Life Insurance annual Afro-American Artists competitions, the National Arts Program Atlanta Municipal Employees exhibitions, Spelman College, City Gallery East, the Hammonds House Galleries, Atlanta Photography Gallery, the APEX Museum, Frames ‘n’ Fine Art Gallery, M’Print Gallery, the Ellis-Chambers Gallery, Changing the Face of Creativity, the Arts Exchange, Atlanta-Fulton Public Library, Rush Art Gallery (NYC), Auburn Avenue Research Library, Native Sun Gallery, Paradigm Artspace, Cleveland State University African-American Cultural Center, Salem College Fine Arts Center Gallery, Georgia Perimeter College, the Center for Aids and Humanity, Studioplex, Art Farm, One Night Stand, the Michael C. Carlos Museum, City Gallery Chastain, Mason-Murer Gallery, Alabama State University, Georgia State University and the Rialto Center for the Performing Arts. Sue’s solo exhibition, Jazz Atlanta Style, was exhibited at the Gilbert House as part of the 1999 Atlanta Jazz Festival and at the Southwest Arts Center. Her portraits of Pearl Primus and Maya Angelou were included in the Fay Gold Selects show at APG. She was included in the Atlanta Master Photographers exhibit at Kennesaw State University and the Reflections in Black exhibit at the Atlanta History Center. She served as the photo editor and principal photographer for the City’s weekly newspaper City Beat from 1996-2001, and as principal photographer for the e-newsletter, City Newsbytes (2004). Her work appears regularly in local and national publications.
Her photographs have appeared in numerous books, including A Joyous Revolt: Toni Cade Bambara Writer and Activist, In the Eye of the Muses: Selections from the Clark Atlanta University Galleries, Generations, Present Tense Past Perfect: 20th Anniversary National Black Arts Festival, Maya Angelou: A Glorious Celebration, Savoring the Salt: the Legacy of Toni Cade Bambara, Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers: 1840 to the Present, Black: A Celebration of a Culture and Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present by Deborah Willis, A Love Supreme by TaRessa and Calvin Stovall, Dr. Richard A. Long’s Black Americana and African Americans, Patricia Bell Scott’s Life Notes and Double Stitch, Andrea Young’s Life Lessons My Mother Taught Me, Andrew Young’s An Easy Burden and the catalogues Dreaming Identities, 30 Years of the Atlanta Jazz Festival and Sistagraphy: A 10 year Retrospective.
Sue’s portraits of Miles Davis and Pearl Primus are in the permanent collection of Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries. Her work toured in the national exhibit Saturday Night, Sunday Morning show curated by Deborah Willis. Her 2011 solo exhibition “Sankofa: Looking Back to Move Forward” explored the 22 year history of the National Black Arts Festival. Her work was exhibited in “Dreaming Identities” at the Arnika Dawkins Gallery curated by Dr. Deborah Willis. Sue curated the exhibit “Sankofa Redux: 25 Years of NBAF,” featuring the work of Jim Alexander, Brian Christian, Gudrun Hughes, and Shannon McCollum.
She is a 2004 recipient of the Paul R. Jones Family Fund’s first national Spiral Award to Artists of Distinction, and has been honored for her cultural work by the Trumpet Awards Foundation, Spelman College Digital Moving Image Salon, the Rolling Out magazine Top 25 Women in Atlanta, Welcome Magazine MECCA Award, Concerned Black Clergy, the Black Women Film Preservation Project, the Hammonds House Museum, the Atlanta City Council, and the Georgia House of Representatives.
Sue is a founding member of Sistagraphy™: the collective of african-american women photographers. She serves on the boards of the Black Women Film Network, the BronzeLens Film Festival, Hammonds House Museum, Nutrition Plus HHC and Sistagraphy, and works closely with the National Black Arts Festival and other cultural institutions. She served for many years on the boards of the National Black Arts Festival, the Atlanta African Film Society and the Metro Atlanta Coalition of 100 Black Women.