In Memorium: Judy Sherrod
A few months ago, the photography community lost an amazing photographer, friend, rabble-rouser, organizer, and cheerleader of all things photography. Judy Sherrod made things happen. She started a group called Shootapalooza, organizing photographers to come together and make work, make fun, and make memories. She created the World Largest Cyanotype and started World Cyanotype Day. She was one of those remarkable people who wasn’t interested in her own spotlight, but knew how to encourage people to jump in and enjoy the photographic waters.
Over the years, I would get the occasional message from Judy, acknowledging something on Lenscratch or supporting something in my photo life. I was lucky when having an exhibition at the Tilt Gallery in Scottsdale earlier this Spring, to have Judy and the Shootapalooza band of merry makers have an accompanying show which led to a lovely, spirited dinner afterwards. Today, we are celebrating Judy and sharing some memories from those who were touched by her magic.
Judy is best know for her love of alternative processes and her tinkering and building of massive pinhole hole cameras. Her series with S. Gayle Stevens, Nocturnes, began as “an experiment, an adventure, a collaboration. A pinhole camera-maker and a wet-plate collodion artist collaborated to produce mammoth plate tintypes, echoing the work and process of the early survey photographers”. More on the work here.
From S. Gayle Stevens:
Judy and I met at PhotoNOLA 2010. She had a portfolio case made out of the top and bottom of a pinhole camera she was working on- I was intrigued. I also met Anne Berry, Ann Marie George and Lori Vrba. The five of us became When Pigs Fly. I frequent Pass Christian, Mississippi and Judy was only 5-6 hours away in Wichita Falls, Texas. She came a-visitin’ and asked if we could make a tintype with her new 16×20 pinhole camera. I said I don’t have a silver bath for 16×20 but I have an 11×14. So we shot an 11×14 plate of Helen Davis’ house where I have a darkroom.
Judy, coming from Texas, said “What is the LARGEST wet plate pinhole tintype anyone has made?” “As far as I know no one has made a mammoth plate pinhole tintype.” I replied. And so… Nocturnes was born. For 2 years we trudged across the sand with the 20×20” pinhole camera Judy had built for our quest. We celebrated our plates with toasts of prosecco and our “private” rating system of the finished plates – which consisted of how many “fucks” we uttered as we stared at our new creations. 49 plates, a friendship born…
Can’t believe you are gone Friend.
From Vicki Reed:
I have always been fascinated by authors’ descriptions of writing, how they create characters and then let them hang out together to see what develops. Judy was like that with real people. She sought out creative souls, some struggling or just emerging with their talents and some seasoned and further along on their journey. She gathered us all together, helped us share and connect and then stood back to see what happened. She trusted us enough to know that we would find just what we needed in each other to continue to grow in our ideas and art. She encouraged us when we had doubts and championed our successes. She comforted me during my difficult time with my parents and their dementia/Alzheimers journey. When I started to experiment with cyanotype portraits with my mom and dad as my way of dealing with the pain and grief, she was the first one cheering me on and quelling my second thoughts and self-doubt. She created Shootapalooza as a murmuration of creativity, imagination and love and it will continue on as her wonderful legacy.
From Yvette Meltzer:
I met Judy Sherrod in Johnson City, Texas in May, 2014. Soon after, I was thrilled to receive an invite from her to join Shootapalooza. From the start Judy endeavored to find a niche for each person to share their talents with the group. In doing so, she was stretching each of us as a facilitator/member of the group and exposing the members of Shootapalooza to something they might never have attempted before. In my case after reading through my Facebook page and identifying some of my interests she explored the paperback sketch book idea, and then moved on to Process Painting, eventually asking me to lead a 3 day intro to process paining. Judy was present for each of the 3 days, painting with resolve. In the last days of June, 2017, with pride, Judy sent me a photo of her completed painting.
Judy Sherrod initiated oh so many positive and original endeavors on behalf of the group.
• She arranged for each of us to glaze a ceramic pinhole camera in Port Aransas, Texas in February 2015.
• In 2016 after Sally Mann lost her son, she encouraged each of us to write a letter to Sally and to include a print for her. Judy compiled and sent our photos and letters to Sally and shared Sally’s heartfelt response with us when it arrived.
• In February, 2017, Judy arranged for Mary Virginia Swanson to give a private lecture to us at ICP in Tucson at the beginning of Shootapalooza 17.
Of course I could go on. Her many accomplishments will be identified by all who knew Judy. And all will concur that Judy had the biggest heart and the most creative mind. She did not come for rest. With her vast energy and personal interest in each person, Judy helped each of us to think through our own artistic sensibilities. Judy Sherrod, initiator, creator, facilitator, supporter, kind, compassionate networker…mover and shaker…irreplaceable…The measure of our great loss is the measure of our great privilege to have been included in her world of wonder. To know Judy was to love her…always.
From Laura Husar Garcia:
From Shari Trennert:
Judy gave us a forum to be free. Explore whatever motivated or intrigued us. This murmuration of artists, Shootapalooza.
I met Judy at the Center for Fine Art Photography in Ft. Collins, Colorado at the Alternative Process Exhibition juried by Christopher James. I had no idea what I was doing, and was in awe of the work I saw hanging on the walls, yet I had a piece too on these walls. How crazy is that?
This lady with a strong presence and an unmistakable Texan drawl invited me to breakfast the next morning. Out of fear I thought of creating an excuse to not make it. I went anyway. I watched as these people talked and Judy passed out these buttons that said “Shootapalooza, Ft. Collins” and a notebook with a stamp of the logo. It turns out they had a ton of activities planned for the next few days. I wished I could’ve stayed to get to know this group better but I without a doubt that was the day she took me under her wing.
Judy added me to the group. In Port Arkansas at the next gathering. She left me a message…. “Shari, where are you sunshine?” The next day at the first meeting, I walked in not knowing what to expect, and she gave me a Texas sized hug and said, “SHARI, I’m so happy! I’m so happy your here!” I went home after that week on cloud nine and I finally felt like I found my tribe. Judy’s visionary tribe.
Judy’s sudden passing has left a hole in my heart. We had such a small window of time together but often talked online about traveling, books, and ideas. We had talked earlier in the week about how B, her beautiful pointer, needed a doggie passport. I will miss our talks.
Judy will forever be an inspiration to me. She had encouraged me to look beyond the shadow of fear and go for it no matter the results. She would share her talents and vast knowledge of photography, books, and philosophy without expecting anything in return. She was my mentor. She didn’t accept the phrase “I can’t…” because all things were possible to her. When my fear begins to creep in I will remember her words, “nothing is out of reach”.
Judy’s legacy and spirit will continue to thrive and reverberate because of her love of promoting art and community. This vision of artists giving freely to other artists is a living entity known as Shootapalooza.
I will forever be grateful for the times I had with Ms Judy Sherrod and her invitation to breakfast.
With love my friend Judy, until we meet again.
From Patricia Bender:
Judy Sherrod was a force to be reckoned with. A whirlwind of energy, ideas, love, and concern for others. In addition to photography, we shared a taste for bourbon. In accord with Judy’s sassiness and irreverence, I’ve paraphrased the incomparable Mason Williams to create a little poem in her honor.
Them Bourbon Drinkers
How about them bourbon drinkers
Ain’t they a bunch
Drinking they bourbon
Even at lunch.
Drinking them Booker’s
Drinking Jim Beam
Drinking it with ginger ale
In they Airstream.
Look at them bourbon drinkers
Ain’t they happy
Toasting all the Shootas
With a round of Pappy.
Them bottle sucking bourbon drinkers
Gathering down south
Pouring Wild Turkey
In they mouth.
How to be a bourbon drinker
Ain’t nothing to it
Get yourself some Makers Mark
And just go do it.
Here’s to Judy, my friend, photographer, and bourbon drinker extraordinaire. I’m honored and blessed to have known you, and I will miss you every day of my life.–Patricia Bender
From Jane Fulton Alt:
My first contact with Judy was over the phone. I called her to ask if she would consider coming up to Chicago to share some of her Shootapalooza magic with the Chicago Women in Photography (CWIP) group. Instead, she suggested that I come down to Galveston the following winter to learn about the Shootapolooza group, and that I did. It was an extraordinary experience. There were about 40 women photographers coming and going, all experimenting, sharing and creating. The collaboration and support was stunning, and it all emanated from Judy. One of my fondest memories was when wwe made cyanotype images on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, while flying these amazing kites created under the direction of Melanie and George Peters. A bonfire was burning and I said something about working with ash. Judy, in her ever encouraging way, turned to me and said, “There is your ash, Jane. “ She single handedly created a culture of experimentation, collaboration, creativity and camaraderie.
Toward the end of the gathering, Judy suggested we take a ferry to a restaurant and be sure to notice the seagulls following the ferry. We did and I can’t help but think she is now somewhere overhead, smiling down on all of us as we try to grapple with the loss. Judy is missed by many, but her legacy will live on.
From Patricia Delker:
I met Judy in 2010 when she was a registrant for my Magic Images Workshop – in Ireland with Keith Carter. She showed up with a handful of her homemade pinhole cameras which she used for the duration of the trip, mingling them with the Hasselblads, Canons, and other high end equipment. We bonded over some shots of good Irish whiskey. And her photographs were beautiful and unique…just like her. Attached is one of her pinhole images on Inishmaan-Aran Islands.
(I feel fortunate to have this photo…I admired it soon after she posted some of her pinhole images on the blog she wrote at the time. I wanted to buy it; she suggested a trade, which we did.)
From Paula Riff:
My fondest memories of Judy were the late night fb messenger chats we often had. We were perfect sisters for that. I am sure she chatted with so many others , but it always felt so personal, so close, and always so much fun. We would chat about so many things. Mostly about art and she always wanted to know what I was working on and always had a suggestion on what book to read or article to look up or video to watch. She would say, “Sunshine” – I loved that she called me that and it just always made me feel great because it made me feel so sunny. One night after spending a weekend at an art kite flying festival with the fabulous artist duo Melanie Walker and George Peters, she told me I had to immediately buy this book – “Pictures in the Sky – Art Kites”. She sent me the link and we both immediately ordered a copy. She told me it would give me ideas for days and she was right. It’s an amazing book with wonderful text and illustrations on artists throughout history making art kites! One night we also had an art challenge with each other where we would pick out our top 5 favorite kites – art kites and share and talk about why we chose them. And then we did it again until one of us got tired. I have so many wonderful memories of conversations like this with Judy that it makes my heart sing with joy to remember her joy and knowledge about so many things. She would always encourage me to push boundaries and not be boring and to keep trying new things and experimenting. And so I will keep on doing that and keep on loving her and all that she inspired in me and so many others. Her heart was bigger than one ever can imagine. Here’s to Judy, probably the coolest smartest, warmest women I will ever meet.
From Catherine Harold:
I met Judy just last year, when she came to visit Vicky Stromee and Margo Barnes ahead of the 2017 Tucson Shootapalooza gathering. My story is much like that of other Shootapaloozans, in that I was intrigued by Judy right away and attached to her quickly–unusually quickly. We spent an evening in her Airstream talking about art and humanity, and that was it. Attached. Some weeks later, she invited Vicky, Margo, my wife Connie, and me to meet her at Caddo Lake in Texas in January. Of course we went. Spent several days immersed with her at the decommissioned ammunition plant she’s been sleuthing and photographing. She was full of ideas and adventure and charm of the best, most genuine kind. It was a creatively expansive time that lingers for me still. And that was her signature, wasn’t it? Her great gift to all of us in the body of one remarkable woman whose unfailing instinct was to say, yes, do it, why not?
From Melanie Walker:
From Kevin Tully:
Judy was shy. She covered her shyness well with her sterling wit and seeming bravado. It was hard to recognize amidst all the beautiful chaos she created with shootapalooza and World Cyanotype Day.
Many times I watched her become socially overwhelmed and retreat to her airstream or motel room. I always wanted to sneak to her window with my camera and catch a glimpse of the shy little red headed girl I imagined her to be.
However, she never was shy when she strode into the gallery, always with something in her arms – her homemade tostada chips, Windthorst sausage, a pinhole camera, tequila, 2700 square feet of cyanotype treated fabric, a Martin guitar – always marching in with a big “Hello There Amanda and Kevin.”
We sure miss you – Adios and Buen Viaje Judy
From Ingrid Lundquist:
With the phone invitation, “You get to San Antonio and I’ll get you to Johnson City,” I knowingly breached the invisible boundaries of an untamed territory called ‘Shootapalooza.’ On June 21, 2015, a black SUV driven by a straw haired stranger with penetrating eyes (looking out over zebra rimmed glasses) and a white dog wearing a red bandana riding shotgun, picked me up at the airport in San Antonio. They were called Judy Sherrod and B. On the drive to Johnson City, she said that picking me up was a good excuse to stop by the pet store and buy special food for the tadpoles that lived in a condominium in her Airstream trailer. It was obvious that knowing Judy Sherrod would be an adventure.
In the two plus years that passed prior to her death on July 28, 2017, I interfaced with Judy in person, via phone and on the internet. When we discussed a Shootapalooza gathering in Sacramento in May of 2018 during the Inaugural Sacramento Photography Month, she said, “It will be fun to have a California get-together. I’ll support whatever you wish to do.” Shortly after that conversation, the inaugural month was changed to April to accommodate student schedules. The project no longer fit into my calendar and was tabled. It would have been a bittersweet effort without Judy.
If Shootapalooza was a building, Judy played the dual role of doorman and activity director. She opened the door and welcomed you into a photography world where friendships easily formed and knowledge exchanged. She facilitated learning experiences and was equal parts leader, advocate and participant. Her ability to gather photographers of all levels of expertise and interest into a somehow unified collective was uncanny.
Judy’s photography was inspired. Inventing and retooling processes, her images were peacefully haunting. She was an inspiring teacher who nurtured exploration both in the experience of making the image and by encouraging the photographer’s thematic approach to their art. She was a collector of people, part shepherd/part tour guide, with an itinerary that promoted unscheduled side trips which fostered camaraderie – be it as a member of a faux country band on stage at Luckenbach, Texas or wheat pasting under stars at Cadillac Ranch, Judy freely gifted those who encountered her with her energy, enthusiasm and flamboyant spirit.
If I had to choose only one word in memory of Judy, it would be ‘inspire’… and all of its variations. Judy Sherrod was an inspiration to those who knew her and will inspire those to come.
From Amy Jasek:
Judy Sherrod: she hated having her photograph made; I did it anyway.
How do you begin to process loss? I’ve experienced it before – at 41, it would be nothing short of miraculous if I hadn’t – but I am unfamiliar with the permanent loss of a friend from this earth. Since the end of July, I have gone through the whole gamut of emotions, including most recently shame, because I have felt like a fool for my grief.
The truth is that I didn’t really know Judy that well. I don’t have a memorable story to share about the first time we met. I had a million questions for her, a million things I wanted to know, but hadn’t asked, because I respected the silence she seemed to maintain on the subject of herself. My feeling was that she guarded a life well lived, lived with passion, that had for whatever reason caused her to put up a wall and focus on others instead, and who am I to pound at that wall with a lot of meaningless questions. The details didn’t really matter anyway; what I saw was a woman who was strong, brave, authentic, self assured, and absolutely not in any way full of sh*t.
I got to know her because of an invitation: following up on my comment about an event I saw on Facebook, she invited me to join in. It seemed like the right thing to do, so I went, and immediately had my mind blown and foundations rocked by a side of photography I had never considered. It had been a long time since I felt that out of place, and I wanted to leave, but I stayed – I stayed because of Judy. Two plus years later, I am so glad that I did; the friendships and experiences I have had as a result of her vision have enriched my life more than I can possibly say.
Judy made me feel welcome in a world where I didn’t belong, didn’t fit in, because it seemed like she was just as mystified by it as I am. She told me once that she was “a terrible fine art photographer, because if I don’t get in to a show I’m pissed off about the time and money I spent on it, and if I do get in I’m pissed off about how much it costs to mail the work.” She told me this after I confessed to her that I was secretly relieved that I didn’t get in to something because I knew what an expensive pain in the ass it would be to post a bunch of framed pieces. (I would argue that she was in fact an excellent fine art photographer, and it could be she was just commiserating to make me feel better, but those points are moot now). This is how we spoke to each other; in a life of minding my daily p’s and q’s, I was hugely grateful to have a wise friend that I could be frank with, someone completely real that wouldn’t judge me for being real myself.
Judy was my anchor in the vast ocean that is the photographic community. She encouraged me in everything, and inspired me with her own fervor for following whatever trail spoke to her at the moment. I haven’t really begun to understand the hole her passing has left in my life, but I know I will never fill it. She remains in a legacy of fearlessness, passion to try new things, kindness, generosity, and overall joy for every single moment. Rest in peace, dear friend. I only knew you in part; one day I will know you fully.
Rest in Peace, Judy! You are so missed.
Posts on Lenscratch may not be reproduced without the permission of the Lenscratch staff and the photographer.