Since 1980, the American photographer Thomas Roma (born 1950) has published eleven books of his photographs, compiled two limited-edition hand-bound volumes, and contributed his pictures to a variety of other publications. Columbia University’s Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery begins 2010 with a rare opportunity to view exhibition prints from his published works in Pictures for Books: Photographs by Thomas Roma organized by Susan Kismaric, a curator in the Department of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art.
Thomas Roma has exhibited widely, both nationally and internationally, and his work is in numerous public and private collections. Twice the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, he is on the faculty in the Visual Arts Program in the School of the Arts at Columbia. The exhibition at the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, comprises almost 100 photographs selected from four key publications: Found in Brooklyn, Sicilian Passage, Come Sunday, and, On Three Pillars: Torah, Worship, and the Practice of Loving Kindness – The Synagogues of Brooklyn. Visitors to the gallery have an opportunity to both view prints from several projects side by side and to view his rare, limited-edition, hand-bound books: Brooklyn Gardens and Sirius Studies.
Thomas Roma is a native of Brooklyn, where he currently resides. Many of his photographs describe mundane life in the borough: neighborhood gardens, passengers riding the elevated subway train, facades of storefront churches and synagogues, religious services in small African-American churches, and portraits of people waiting in the corridors of Brooklyn’s criminal court. Viewed as a whole, Roma’s photographs are a chronicle of urban life as it is lived by ordinary residents, a description of their aspirations and hopes, and a record of their successes and failures. In several projects, he has extended his concerns to communities outside of New York, such as the landscape and life of people in small villages in his ancestral Sicily. In a recent project done in New Jersey, he photographed the houses of patients visited by the poet William Carlos Williams, when he worked as doctor in the 1950s. A member of the post–Garry Winogrand and Diane Arbus generation of American photographers, Roma extends the tradition of photography’s documentary aesthetic with pictures of great formal confidence to reveal what might be called, for lack of a better term, traditional values.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the gallery will present Thomas Roma, in conversation with the exhibition curator, on February 3, at 6:30 p.m.