For over two years, Thomas Roma frequented a dog park in Brooklyn, mounting his camera on an 8-foot pole in order to photograph its canine visitors. He chose to focus on the animals’ shadows, which in Plato’s allegory of the cave symbolize misinterpretations of reality. But for Roma, despite their visual distortion, the silhouettes seemed to provide the most accurate representations of each dog’s essential self. He notes that “some resemble fearsome wolves, some stoic water buffalo, and some a new breed of creature altogether, but never a pet, never the animal that will later sleep at the foot of your bed.”
Twice the recipient of Guggenheim Fellowships in 1982 and 1991 and a New York State Council for the Arts Fellowship in 1973, Thomas Roma has exhibited his work internationally, including in solo shows at the Museum of Modern Art and the International Center of Photography in New York. In 2003 he received a New York City Council Proclamation for his contributions to the cultural and educational life of New York City and in 2011 the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. He has published fourteen monographs including Plato’s Dogs with an introductory text by his son, Giancarlo T. Roma. He has taught photography since 1983 at Yale, Fordham, Cooper Union, and The School of Visual Arts, and in 1996 he became the Director of the Photography Program at Columbia University School of the Arts where he is a Professor of Art. His work is in numerous collections, including The Museum of Modern Art, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and The Canadian Center for Architecture, Montreal. He was also a founding contributing photographer to DoubleTake Magazine. Roma lives in Brooklyn with his wife Anna.