Zora J Murff’s series asks how much we control our own image

In his project American Mother, American Father, the US-based artist and educator looks at the degree to which identity is made or predetermined

Self Portrait as a Dreamed Man (after Bayard), 2020. All images from the series American Mother, American Father © Zora J Murff

Before his career in photography flourished, US-based artist and activist Zora J Murff was a social worker in the criminal justice system in the US, specifically helping young people avoid incarceration.

The two facets of his working life – social work and visual art – first came together in his early project, Corrections, and his background has continued to inform his photography practice, which interrogates the impact of violence, public policy and white supremacy on Black communities in the US.

American Mother, 2019

An exhibition running as part of Belfast Photo Festival is playing host to his most recently completed series, American Mother, American Father.

The body of work weaves family photos and vernacular photography into his original images, as he examines his inner conflict in response to his increasing “desire for status, success, and positioning”, according to Webber Gallery. His work has become more autobiographical as time goes by, so much so that Murff himself appears in the photographs.

Untitled (Yellow House), 2017
Fronting (Affirmation #4), 2020. From True Colors (or, Affirmations in a Crisis). (Aperture, 2021)

“My early images were made when I was experiencing rapid upward social mobility and becoming acquainted with Arkansas and Mississippi, my ancestral landscapes,” the artist said. “Visiting the birthplaces of my maternal and paternal families forced me to reflect on how we build identity, how identity can be created for us, and how those phenomena collide.”

Murff will be participating in an online talk on June 28 about his practice with curator Shana Lopes.

American Father, 2019
Primp and prosper (Slide 705), 2020
Flagging, 2018

American Mother, American Father runs in Belfast until June 30; belfastphotofestival.com; zora-murff.com

DESIGN PRODUCER

LONDON/HYBRID

DESIGNER

LONDON