The collar is a powerful point of entry for exploring Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life and her tireless work on America’s highest court. The twenty-five neckpieces captured here—in over eighty stunning photographs by award-winning photographer Elinor Carucci—offer insight into RBG’s legacy. Her sharp use of language, a linchpin of her notorious dissents, is celebrated throughout, with quotes to support each collar and its story. The bold, ornate, and subversive collars she chose to wear on the bench communicated so much more.
Shortly after RBG’s passing in September, 2020, Carucci was commissioned by Time magazine for a commemorative piece on the late justice, focused on the stories behind her legendary collars. Here, Carucci and co-author Sara Bader use each collar to highlight a defining career moment, from RBG’s earliest argument for gender equality to her support of immigration and marriage equality during her twenty-fifth year on the bench. Some of her collars are well-known, like her dissent collar, or her favorite white beaded neckpiece that she wore for important portraits. Other collars are less familiar but tell poignant stories of artists, colleagues, friends, and fans whose gifts to Justice Ginsburg found meaning in her hands.
Small in stature but towering in influence, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was described as a titan, a civil rights hero, and most poetically, by her colleague Justice Stephen Breyer, “a rock of righteousness.” The Collars of RBG is an artful collection of moments from this warrior’s legacy, crystallizing the many ways RBG reshaped the cultural landscape for us all.
The week after her death, I felt an urge to create work inspired by Ginsburg, but I couldn’t find a way to approach it. Much of my personal photographic work has revolved around intimacy, family, motherhood, and women, but how do you capture the legacy of a personal hero? So when I was approached by Katherine Pomerantz, TIME’s director of photography, about taking on the assignment of photographing the justice’s collars for the magazine, it felt like a prayer was answered. For me, this was the equivalent of documenting a superhero’s costume, with all of the significance it held for myself, my family, and millions of Americans.
Their decision to feminize a traditionally male uniform was a radical one. By wearing these decorative accessories, both Justices O’Connor and Ginsburg communicated that a woman could be both intellectually rigorous and feminine. “[Ginsburg’s] collars re-inject the concept of ‘body’ into the disembodying judicial robe,” notes author Rhonda Garelick, “signaling not only the presence of a woman, but by extension, the presence of a biological human body—which demands acknowledgment and consideration.”