Wednesday, June 12, 2024

International Center of Photography Infinity Awards Go to Ming Smith for Lifetime Achievement and Rising Artist Zora J Murff


PAYING TRIBUTE TO outstanding achievements in photography and visual culture, the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York announced its 2023 Infinity Awards. Ming Smith and Zora J Murff are among five recipients of the annual honors. For her career-spanning accomplishments, recognizing the arc of her practice and five decades of creativity, Smith is receiving for Lifetime Achievement Award. The award for Documentary Practice and Visual Journalism is going to Arkansas-based Murff, whose work explores how images can reinforce social and cultural constructs.

“ICP’s annual Infinity Awards celebrate the vision of talented photographers who create images that alter how we see and act in the world,” ICP Executive Director David E. Little, said in a statement.


MING SMITH, “Untitled (Grace Jones Ballerina),” 1975. | © Ming Smith


After graduating from Howard University, Smith arrived in New York in the early 1970s and over time developed a singular photography-based practice. A pioneer in her field, her distinctive portraits and figurative street scenes are cast into an otherworldly realm with experimental techniques employed with her camera and hand. Working primarily in black-and-white, Smith produces painterly and artfully blurred images using methods such as slow shutter speeds, double exposure, painting, tinting, and collage.

Early in her career, Smith became the first woman to join Kamoinge, the collective of Black photographers in New York. In recent years, she has received increasing attention with major museum exhibitions (“Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” and “Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop”), a comprehensive monograph (“Ming Smith” published by Aperture), and new gallery representation and related solo shows (Pippy Houldsworth Gallery and Nicola Vassell Gallery).

In 1979, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York was the first museum to acquire her work. In February, MoMA will present “Projects: Ming Smith.” Described as a “critical reintroduction” of the artist, the survey delves deep into her archive. MoMA also just launched a new publication focused on a single photograph, Smith’s “Invisible Man, Somewhere, Everywhere” (1991).

A pioneer in her field, Ming Smith’s distinctive portraits and figurative street scenes are cast into an otherworldly realm with experimental techniques employed with her camera and hand.

AN ARTIST AND EDUCATOR, Murff makes thoughtful, complex, and often beautiful images about Blackness. The spectrum spans portraits, landscapes, and object-based images. He “uses photography as a way to explore the histories of American systems and the role imagery plays in shaping our belief in them,” according to his bio. These systems include race, criminality and housing policy.

Murff brings a unique and highly relevant background to his practice: an MFA in art, an undergraduate degree in psychology, and three years working for Linn County Juvenile Detention and Diversion Services in Iowa. Currently, he is an assistant professor of art and co-area head in the Photography Area in the School of Art at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

Over the past few years, Murff has been recognized by a succession of prominent New York institutions known for or specifically focused on photography. In 2019, he was an artist-in-residence at Light Work in Syracuse, N.Y., and a runner up for the Aperture Portfolio Prize. Murff was featured in “Companion Pieces: New Photography 2020” an online exhibition at MoMA. In 2020, he also won the inaugural Next Step Award from Aperture and Baxter St at the Camera Club, an honor that included an exhibition and a recently published book (“True Colors,” 2022). His latest honor comes from ICP.

The 2023 honorees will be celebrated at the 39th annual ICP Infinity Awards on March 28 in New York, a fundraising event benefiting ICP’s education and exhibition programs.

Little added: “These photographers conjure compelling, lasting, and important images that stand out among the billions made every year. In the spirit of ICP’s focus on political and social concern, we are proud to acknowledge the winners not only for their daily work as dedicated practicing artists, but for their commitment to making images with the potential to inspire transformation.” CT


FIND MORE about all of the 2023 ICP Infinity Awards


FIND MORE about Ming Smith and Zora J Murff on their websites


Published in 2020, “Ming Smith” is the long-awaited monograph documenting the artist’s entire career. Just published, “Ming Smith: The Invisible Man,” a fully illustrated, 48-page focused study authored by Oluremi C. Onabanjo, is part of the MoMA One on One Series. Zora J Murff has published four books, including “At No Point in Between” (2019), “LOST: Omaha” (2018), and “Corrections” (2015). In 2022, his most recent volume, “True Colors (or, Affirmations in a Crisis)” was published as part of his 2020 Next Step Award from Aperture and Baxter St at the Camera Club of New York.


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