The Collars of RBG: A Portrait of Justice

May 6, 2024

Sara Bader & Elinor Carucci’s book, The Collars of RBG, features more than 80 photographs that provide a fresh perspective on the life and work of the iconic Justice Ginsburg. Through this captivating collection of Elinor’s photographs, readers are given a glimpse into 25 unique neckpieces, each with its own story that sheds light on pivotal moments in Ginsburg’s illustrious career. This collection, originally commissioned by Time Magazine, not only showcases Ginsburg’s unwavering commitment to gender equality, but also her advocacy for immigration and marriage equality. From the famous dissent collar to lesser-known pieces, each collar in the collection serves as a tribute to the individuals who played a significant role in Ginsburg’s life and career. In a captivating interview, Elinor Carucci provides a glimpse into the experience of photographing Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s collars. Discover the emotions, the stories, and the profound connection Carucci forged with these symbolic pieces that encapsulate the essence of Ginsburg’s remarkable journey.

What led you to photograph this book? 

I’m a fine-art photographer. I’m Israeli, born and raised in Jerusalem, and I moved here after I graduated from the Academy of Art with a degree in photography. I’ve been doing my personal work, and a lot of it is photographing myself, my family, and the people that are close to me. I’ve published a few books, which are Closer, Mother, and Midlife. I have always been photographing people and people’s relationships, the universal themes of family, connection, love, intimacy, pain, aging, and all that. And I’ve also been shooting for magazines for 25 years. Photographing the same themes of family and people, people’s relationships. So I’ve been mainly photographing people for all those years. This was a very unusual assignment for me from Time Magazine. Katherine Pomerantz, the photo director of Time, approached me about a month after Justice Ginsburg passed. And she said, of course, it’s a still life shoot, it’s a still life assignment, you’re not a still life photographer, but I want you, and I don’t know if she was thinking about “you”, meaning I’m a woman, I’m an immigrant, and I’m Jewish. I deal with the themes of family that are somehow related to women; my previous book is “Midlife.” It’s about middle age, being a woman and middle age. But she gave me this assignment, and I went. I traveled to the Supreme Court in October of 2020 and photographed 20 of her most famous collars.

How did you choose which collars to feature? 

It was chosen by Time, and they wanted to photograph the most famous and recognizable collars of RBG, and to tell a little bit about the stories behind them. I photographed 20 collars, and it was a very meaningful day for me. I wrote about it in the essay opening in the book, but then when the book was released, the response was overwhelming, with people reaching out to me, sometimes writing in tears, and being very moved by seeing those collars that they sometimes saw over the years, and hearing about the stories and how they started. So it was just my gallery that was selling prints, and many people asked me how they could buy the prints. “Are there posters?” “Is there a book?” “Is it their book?” Finally, I said, “There isn’t a book, but I am going to work on one”, and I decided to approach Sarah Bader, who I knew from her years working at FIDA, and I didn’t know she was no longer at FIDA. I approached her, and after we talked about this project, we decided to work on the book together with her as the right researcher. I got to the work of trying to photograph a few more collars. I photographed one even in Israel in Tel Aviv at the Anur Museum, one in Philadelphia, and some others. And we got the publisher, Clarkson Potter of Random House, and published a book. As I said, choosing the collars was done by Time for this assignment, and then honestly, I photographed four more collars that I could find. I know that what led Time to choose those, maybe together with the Supreme Court, was that they were the most famous collars that she had. The sand collar, her famous South African collar that is on the cover of the book, the majority collar, the LGBTQ pride collar, are the most famous ones, and some other ones too. 

What are some of the biggest takeaways you hope readers get from the book? 

This is really why I love this book. There’s so much you can take from this book. If you are a lawyer, if you love the law, if you are thinking about the Constitution, if you’re thinking about some famous cases, if you love fashion, if you are a feminist and you want to learn a little bit more about the story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, if you love photography, if you love art, if you love lace, there are even interviews with lace makers. So I think the biggest takeaway is that there is something in this book for almost everyone. There are stories about her family, stories about opera, and throughout, it’s about celebrating the legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It’s about going deeper into the story, heritage and legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

What does RBG mean to you?  

To me, RBG meant so many things. But mainly, as a Jewish person and woman, I know she was referring to Judaism as part of her pursuit of justice, and this means a lot to me. Also, I was born in 1971, and growing up in the 70s and 80s, although I was raised by a very feminist mom, many times it was seen back in those days as something that might contrast or conflict with motherhood or marriage. RBG inspired me with her beautiful love story with her devoted husband, Martin Ginsburg, and being a mother to two children. I always saw her as a humble person, even though she was one of the most important women to affect our lives as Americans. This was even more emphasized after I saw the collection. I was expecting to see bigger names, like big fancy names of big designers or, I don’t know, diamonds and pearls, and what I saw felt really like a collection of people. Collars that were bought in vintage stores, and those that were made for her by lace makers. There was something very humble about the people in this collection.

What can we learn from RBG about non-verbal communication through fashion/expressing ourselves through fashion?

No one really knows that she started this with Sandra Day O’Connor. They started it together, but her collection became famous over the years and grew more significantly. We don’t know exactly why it started, but we know that she wanted to separate herself from the males in their black gowns- grim and boring, and to send messages without words, which, as you know, as a photographer, I really relate a lot. RBG was a woman of words, of the law, a scholar, but I think we can learn that the presentation was important for her and communicating in different ways with people. I’m sure most Americans were not going to sit and read her dissent, which was 20 pages long. It was another way of communicating, a different way of communicating, and maybe a different aspect of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s personality. It was also a way to continue a tradition of jewelry and women, what we’re saying through our jewelry, how we express ourselves, and not in a way that is referring to body or body type but in a different way.

Can you describe what it was like to photograph the collars at The Supreme Court?

This was a lot for me. I mean, my husband and I are American citizens, and my husband was helping me; he was my assistant. Thank God he could come with me. We’re both immigrants, and for us to be at the Supreme Court was just big enough. It was the first day of justice for Amy Coney Barrett. So it was a big day, and we were honored. We were nervous. We waited for a while; we knew we had six minutes with each collar. And then they rolled out Justice Ginsburg’s drawers. Until I really saw the first one, I didn’t know I would get so emotional. When Times writer Tessa Berenson was talking, I could hear her talking to some of the people and hearing some of the stories, and it was like getting a glimpse in an intimate way into who Ruth Bader Ginsburg was and what she wore, looking at closeups of the details of each of the collars, the threads that came out, or the clasps getting a little rusty. Hearing the stories, it was like I was photographing her and somehow feeling her presence. The stories, the people, the different majority opinions and dissent opinions, and through those collars, and I was honored, I was emotional. A few times I started crying, and my husband even yelled at me to stop crying, because we had six minutes per collar, which was not a lot, and by the time we arranged the collar on the black velvet, we had four minutes or even less left. It was a very special day for me as a woman, as a Jewish person, and as an American. 

Which of RBGs achievements do you admire the most?

She’s done so many things, but maybe as a woman, I think I admire what she did in fighting for equality for women. You know, when she first started participating in the law, women couldn’t attend certain schools, or serve on juries in some states, or even get certain jobs or get credit cards. She fought for women’s equality. She was a woman herself, a mother, a wife, and a daughter, and this, for me as a woman, I see this as her achievement that I admire the most.

How can we use RBGs legacy as an inspiration & pick up where she left off to propel our country into the future?

Equality is so important. Equality for all of us, no matter our race, gender, or justice. To always pursue justice, to not be divided, and to not look at other people as “the other”. We are all the same. RBG fought for men and for women, for fathers and mothers, she always pursued equality and justice in a way that was above anything else.

What’s next for you?

First of all, there are going to be exhibitions, more exhibitions for me of this body of work. I had a show at the Edwynn Houk Gallery that just closed. There is a show up right now at the Jewish Museum in New York that is up until the end of May, and then there will be another exhibition at the Jewish Museum of Contemporary Art in San Francisco and maybe others. But I am going back to photographing people. I have been working on photographing my kids and their friends in their teen years for the last 7 years, and I’m going to probably go on for another year or two until they finish college, and then will probably put this body of work about being an American teenager out.

Where can people find you? 

People can find me on my email,, on my website,, on my Instagram, @ElinorCarucci, and on Facebook.

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