Today we honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg on what would have been her 88th birthday. After the late US Supreme Court Justice passed away in September 2020, TIME magazine commissioned Elinor Carucci to photograph her celebrated collection of collars. The resulting suite of intimate still life images, "The Ruth Bader Ginsburg Collars," is now part of the Jewish Museum collection.
Ginsburg, who was the second-ever woman to sit on the Supreme Court, wore these collars not just to emphasize the overdue feminine energy she brought to the court, but also to encode meaning into her dress - a sartorial strategy practiced by powerful women throughout history. Her early penchant for traditional lace jabots later gave way to necklaces made of beads, shells, and metalwork from around the world, many of them gifts from colleagues and admirers. Seen as a whole, the photographs offer a collective portrait of the late Justice through these objects imbued with Ginsburg's personal style, values, and relationships.
The still life series of Ginsburg's collars is something of a departure for Carucci, an Israeli-American artist whose photographs typically examine intimacy, family, motherhood, and women in moments drawn from her own life. "Yet," Carucci says, "I still see this project as being just as personal as any of my other work. Ruth Bader Ginsburg held special significance for Jewish women like me who dreamed of living a life that combined career success with tikkun olam. She represented my identity, values, and connection to America. She represents the values I hope to one day hand over to my daughter, [who, like Ginsburg,] is an American Jew, the child of an immigrant."