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Elliot ROSS. Seeing Animals

After his cat died, Elliot Ross was intrigued by a photograph of his cat that his wife had hung up: What was the animal thinking
at the moment the picture was taken?

Was it consciously looking at the camera lens? Is the animal’s consciousness all that different from that of a human being? These questions gave rise to the Animal series, for which Ross photographed animals around the world. Reworking his pictures, he deliberately removed all traces of their environment, creating powerful portraits devoid of artifice, sometimes producing unsettling face-to-face encounters.

In Seeing Animals, as Xavier Canonne points out, ‘it is not an encyclopedia that Elliot Ross has composed, but a gallery of portraits, with the models appearing to pose as if against a black background in a studio. The decision to shoot in black and white, thereby steering clear of the genre of wildlife photography (a perfectly worthy discipline, for that matter), and to photograph animals that are not immediately identifiable to the average viewer lead us rather to stare at them. Elliot Ross’s photographs not only celebrate the animals through the care he takes in producing them; they also remind us the other animals, that these animals are gifted with performances and capacities other than our own and that some of them will never submit.’

Elliot Ross’s Animal project has featured in fotoMAGAZIN (Germany) as part of its Masterpieces of Photography series, in Foto & Video (Russia) and in many other publications. His critically acclaimed books Animal and Other Animals were published by Schilt Publishing (Amsterdam) in 2010 and 2014, respectively. A selection of works from his Animal Studies series was published in Animalia, an issue of the leading British literary magazine Granta. In 2021 he provided the photographs for the best-selling book On Cats: An Anthology released by Notting Hill Editions (UK) with an introduction by Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale). His work is represented in Amsterdam by Schilt Publishing Gallery and in Hudson, NY, by Davis Orton Gallery.


Elliott Ross was born in Chicago in 1947. He received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1971. He lives in San Francisco and New York with his wife, the writer Ellen Ullman.

He has participated in numerous personal and group exhibitions around the world and he has various publications. He is represented in the collections of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Tucson in Arizona and in the collection of the Musée de la Photographie, among other museum institutions.

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Elliot Ross, Animal (196), 2011 © Elliot Ross

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© Musée de la Photographie
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© Musée de la Photographie
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© Musée de la Photographie