The International Center of Photography’s Infinity Awards honor outstanding achievements in photography and visual arts. In 2023, we recognize artists working in photojournalism, contemporary photography, new media, and critical writing, research, and theory.
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
All proceeds from the Infinity Awards directly benefit ICP’s education and exhibition programs, providing critical crisis funding for the entire institution.
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About the 2023 Honorees
Harlem-based, Detroit-born, Ming Smith attended the famous Howard University, Washington, DC. Ming Smith 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.
Poulomi Basu has become widely known for her influential works Blood Speaks, Centralia, To Conquer Her Land, Fireflies, to name a few. Her focus on the intersectionality of ecological, racial, cultural, and political issues experienced specifically by womxn of the global south, such as herself gives agency to those often considered voiceless, ferociously advocating for womxn through her practice as an artist and activist for more than a decade. Shifting between mediums, Basu has to date worked with photography, performance, installation, virtual reality, and film influenced by magical realism, sci-fi, and speculative fiction.
Her first photobook Centralia was published by Dewi Lewis in 2020. The book and exhibition won the 2020 Rencontres d'Arles Discovery Award Jury Prize, and was shortlisted for the prestigious 2021 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize among many others. She was invited to SXSW 2019 and 78th La Bienale Cinema Venezia ‘Production Bridge.’
Basu was selected for Sundance Fellowship, she is a National Geographic Explorer, and Magnum Foundation Social Justice Fellow. Her works are part of public collections such as Victoria and Albert Museum (UK), Autograph, London (UK); Museum of Modern Art (Special Collections) Martin Parr Foundation (UK); Rencontres d’Arles (FR) amongst others.
Ariella Aïsha Azoulay
Ariella Aïsha Azoulay is Professor of Modern Culture and Media and Comparative Literature at Brown University, a film essayist, and curator of archives and exhibitions.
Her books include: Potential History – Unlearning Imperialism (Verso, 2019); Civil Imagination: The Political Ontology of Photography (Verso, 2012); The Civil Contract of Photography (Zone Books, 2008); From Palestine to Israel: A Photographic Record of Destruction and State Formation, 1947-1950, (Pluto Press, 2011).
Her potential histories, archives and curatorial work include: The Natural History of Rape (Berlin Biennale, 2022); Errata (Tapiès Foundation, 2019, HKW, Berlin, 2020), Enough! The Natural Violence of New World Order, (F/Stop photography festival, Leipzig, 2016), Act of State 1967-2007 – Israeli Regime of Occupation 1967-2007, (Centre Pompidou, 2016, Arquivo Municipal de Lisboa Fotografico, 2020); The Body Politic [in Really Useful Knowledge, curated by What, How & for Whom / WHW], Reina Sofia, Madrid; Potential History of Palestine (2012, Stuk / Artefact, Louven), Untaken Photographs (2010, Igor Zabel Award, The Moderna galerija, Lubliana; Zochrot, Tel Aviv).
Among her film-essays: The world like a Jewel in the Hand – Unlearning Imperial Plunder II (2022); Un-documented: Undoing Imperial Plunder (2019); Civil Alliances, Palestine, 47-48 (2012); I Also Dwell Among Your Own People: Conversations with Azmi Bishara (2004) & The Food Chain (2004).
Zora J Murff
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.”
Joyce B. Cowin is a champion of education and the arts. A noted philanthropist in New York City, she has served on the Boards of such illustrious institutions as the American Folk Art Museum, Teacher’s College at Columbia University, the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and more. Through her involvement at Teacher’s College, she helped to create the Heritage School, an arts-themed public high school in East Harlem, and founded the Cowin Financial Literacy Program for public school children. In addition, she founded the Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery at the New York Historical Society.
Joyce’s late husband and former ICP Trustee, Daniel Cowin, was a devoted collector of photography and an early believer in the medium as an art form. Following his death, she has generously supported ICP over the years and donated the Daniel Cowin Collection of African American History, a trove of more than two thousand postcards, stereographs, cartes-de-visite, tintypes, albumen prints, and gelatin silver prints. Taken together, these ephemeral images provide an important window into African American cultural life from 1860 to about 1930.
Joyce’s impact on New York City through her advocacy and support for arts, culture and education will be felt for generations, and ICP is proud to be a part of her meaningful legacy.
About the Infinity Awards
Since 1985, the ICP Infinity Awards have recognized major contributions and emerging talent in the fields of photojournalism, art, fashion photography, and publishing.
Past recipients include Berenice Abbott, Lynsey Addario, Richard Avedon, Ariella Azoulay, David Bailey, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Roy DeCarava, Elliott Erwitt, Harold Evans, Larry Fink, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Robert Frank, Adam Fuss, David Goldblatt, Paul Graham, David Guttenfelder, Mishka Henner, André Kertész, Steven Klein, William Klein, Karl Lagerfeld, Annie Leibovitz, Helen Levitt, Mary Ellen Mark, Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, Ryan McGinley, Susan Meiselas, Duane Michals, Daidō Moriyama, Zanele Muholi, James Nachtwey, Shirin Neshat, Gordon Parks, Gilles Peress, Walid Raad, Eugene Richards, Sebastião Salgado, Malick Sidibé, Lorna Simpson, Cindy Sherman, Peter Van Atgmael, and Ai Weiwei, among others.
Past Infinity Award attendees include Hailey Baldwin, Hamish Bowles, Naomi Campbell, Grace Coddington, Bella Hadid, Carolina Herrera, Arianna Huffington, Karlie Kloss, Alexandra Richards, Leelee Sobieski, and Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor.
Infinity Awards is sponsored by HEARST and Harbers Studios.
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