The New York International Center of Photography’s Infinity Awards honor outstanding achievements in photography and visual arts. Now they have honored Harlem-based photographer Ming Smith for her Lifetime Achievement. Among other categories and recipients, Zora J Murff, was awarded for his Documentary Practice and Visual Journalism.
2023 Infinity Award Categories and Recipients:
Lifetime Achievement: Ming Smith
Contemporary Photography and New Media: Poulomi Basu
Critical Writing, Research, and Theory: Ariella Aïsha Azoulay
Documentary Practice and Visual Journalism: Zora J Murff
Trustees Award: Joyce Cowin
Ming Smith attended the famous Howard University, Washington, DC. She first became a photographer when she was given a camera, and was the first female member to join Kamoinge, a collective of Black photographers in New York in the 1960s, working to document Black life. Smith would go on to be the first Black woman photographer to be included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art.
Smith’s photography focused on black-and-white street photography, a format that she described as ‘you have to catch a moment that would never ever return again, and do it justice.’ Smith has often described her work as ‘celebrating the struggle, the survival and to find grace in it.’ Many of Smith’s subjects were well-known black cultural figures from Nina Simone, Grace Jones and Alice Coltrane: all from her neighborhood. Smith has cited music as being a big influence in her work, specifically the genres of jazz and the blues. She has likened her work to the blues, saying, “in the art of photography, I’m dealing with light, I’m dealing with all these elements, getting that precise moment. Getting the feeling — to put it simply, these pieces are like the blues.”
As an artist, recognition for her work only came recently thanks to several high-profile exhibitions. Not limited to photography she also uses post production techniques, collage and paint to create her works. Smith was recently included in Soul of a Nation at Tate Modern in collaboration with Brooklyn Museum, Crystal Bridges and The Broad. She was also featured in Brooklyn Museum’s We Wanted A Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85. Smith’s work is in the collections of MoMA, the Whitney Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Detroit Institute of Arts, Virginia Museum of Fine Art, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. She was included in MoMA’s 2010 seminal exhibition, Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography.
Zora J Murff (born in Des Moines, Iowa, 1987) is an artist and educator living in Northwest Arkansas. In 2019, Murff was named an Aperture Portfolio Prize finalist, a PDN 30 honoree, and a Light Work Artist-in Residence; he was one of eight artists chosen for the most recent iteration of the Museum of Modern Art’s New Photography series, Companion Pieces: New Photography 2020. Murff’s books include Corrections (2015); LOST, Omaha (2018); and At No Point In Between (2019). His work was presented at the 2021 Rencontres d’Arles, France, as part of the Louis Roederer Discovery Award and his works are housed in many notable US institutions and collections. “Zora J Murff. He is Black; therefore, he is.”