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Graphic design professor Judith Aronson knows through personal experience that one course may make a substantial impact on a student's life. Aronson was 28 when she took a course in basic photography, a requisite in her graphic design graduate program.
"I'd never taken a picture before in my life," she says. "My thesis project [was a] color photo slide show to music accompaniment following some food from a supermarket, into the kitchen of a family in my building, down the incinerator, carried by our superintendent out to the sidewalk, picked up by a garbage truck, over to the Hudson River, onto a barge, down the river to the now infamous Fresh Kills Landfill site. This was the first time I had an inkling what it might be like to become a photographer."
After graduate school, Aronson traveled to Southeast Asia and began working with Hans Hoefer, the photographer of the APA Guide Book Guide to Bali. "Editing and cataloging his photos was the best photo education I could have had," she says. That education supplemented Aronson's propensity for observing the world around her.
In the introduction to her 2010 book Likenesses, a collection of intimate, black and white photographs of distinguished poets, authors and artists, Aronson writes of her "natural inclination, from a very early age, to pay attention to how people treated each other, beyond what they said--how they stood, what they did with their hands, what happened to their faces when talking or being spoken to." This innate talent for "eavesdropping," as she describes it, is an apparent element of her style as a photographer; Aronson frames endearingly idiosyncratic, intimate views of her subjects.
Aronson's photographs have recently garnered the attention of the likes of the New York Review of Books, in whose December 6th, 2012 issue appeared her portrait of Saul Bellow, and the Poetry Cafe in London, where a two-month exhibition of her work ran from Thanksgiving to mid-January of this year. The National Portrait Gallery's current exhibit entitled "Poetic Likeness: Modern American Poets" (October 12-April 28) features Aronson's portrait of Robert Lowell.