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News . Feature Stories . Photographer Ford expands career portfolio


March 20, 2023

Photographer Ford expands career portfolio

Amber N. Ford ’16 speaks during moCa Cleveland's Winter/Spring 2023 Opening Night Celebration, which included her exhibition, "Someone, Somewhere, Something," on January 27. Photo by McKinely Wiley / The Dark Room Co.

By Carlo Wolff

Seven years out of the Cleveland Institute of Art, photographer Amber N. Ford ’16 is enjoying the ride as her career path takes bends and turns she couldn’t have predicted when she graduated.

Best known for portraits so penetrating they become character studies, Ford particularly enjoys photojournalism. But her curiosity and drive have opened up other channels as well—even sound.

Through June 5, 2022, Ford was an artist-in-residence at moCa Cleveland. Her audio installation there—Someone, Somewhere, Something, on view through June 11, 2023—resulted from that residency and aims to capture expressions of grief in what the museum describes as sound collages.

“Photography will always be my first love, but I’m interested in and open to trying new mediums when the conversation calls for it,” Ford says. “When creating work, I want to move forward with even more intention and go down whatever path makes the most sense.”

Ford grew up in South Euclid, Ohio, where she was turned on to photography by Brush High School teacher Hadley Conner ’88. These days, what she likes to do best is make pictures for national publications: Her work has been featured in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian. The Post and The Atlantic first reached out to her during the pandemic.

“I hadn’t tried to break into national publications prior to the pandemic, but it was always an interest of mine,” she says.

Ford’s work has been exhibited at Kent State University, Transformer Station, the Morgan Conservatory and Cleveland Print Room, among other venues. Her portraits figured in Missing History of Massillon: Unheard African-American Stories, on view in summer 2022 at the Massillon Museum. She recently curated work by Amanda D. King, whose photos were featured in an exhibition at the McDonough Museum of Art at Youngstown State University.

Ford credits CIA for nurturing her. “The secret is to position yourself around folks who want to teach you and see you do well,” she says. “Every one of my faculty members wanted to see me succeed. They taught, pushed and supported me since the first day I stepped into that department. I won’t single anyone out because they all played a specific role in my life but I am happy to say we still keep in touch and they all hold a special place in my heart.”

Photography + Video chair Barry Underwood calls Ford one of his favorite people. “She is so helpful, humble and a laser-focused mover,” he said.

“When you are fresh out of college you think you know what you want to do but that can quickly change when you get the opportunity to do it, and because of that, plans shift,” Ford says. “Am I where I thought I would be? No, but that’s not a bad thing. Sometimes what you get is even better than what you imagined. I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.”

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