Marissa Roth spent much of her career photographing traumatic events. She covered the 1992 Los Angeles riots while on staff at the Los Angeles Times, garnering a Pulitzer Prize, and devoted nearly four decades to a personal essay, “One Person Crying: Women and War,” examining the impact of war on women in countries and cultures around the world.
“The Crossing,” one of her latest projects, now available as a book, is a departure yet still connected to her work on women and war.
While Roth was working on women and war, she found she also was accumulating knowledge about her own family’s history with war. As Roth says in the introduction to “The Crossing”:
“I am not unscathed for I bore too much pain from hearing so many stories that ended with death. I photographed hundreds of women and the decimation not just of people’s lives and the land on which they lived, but also the ripping apart of entire cultures. Along the way, I accrued more knowledge about my own family’s war history and the massacre that took the lives of my paternal grandparents, great-grandmother, and great-uncle during World War II.”
For four years, from May 2015 to May 2019, Roth embarked on seven transatlantic trips between New York City and Southampton, England, which she says, “could be considered my allegorical return journeys to Europe in homage to my mother and father, and, during the westward crossings, a retracing of their destiny.”
But these journeys also sparked a creative impulse. Again, from her introduction to the book, Roth says:
“My journeys from continent to continent, across an ocean and across time, marked another chapter in creativity by ushering in a more profound return to painting, again with light. I chose to photograph with color transparency film solely from the perspective of the ocean. I still love film for its alchemy and mystery, the random nature of emulsion and the necessary creative suspension in not being able to see the results until the film is developed. This medium is purely about technique, instinct and trust. …
“The notion of a crossing, an elongated singular journey that is an echo for the inner journey, was inspirited by my desire to experience what it feels like to cross an ocean and to also understand it from the perspective of emotion. Often, the sea state would mirror my own state of being. During the crossings, I kept journals and filled them with observations and musings that inspired the poetic prose that now accompanies the images; an inscape partnered with the seascapes.”
Roth’s resulting photographs are both painterly and therapeutic. Here is a selection of images from “The Crossing.”
You can find out more about Roth and her work on her website here.
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