MoCP’s Midwest Photographers Project Offers a Look at What’s New in Photography

The Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP) exhibits and promotes works by national and international artists, focusing many of its efforts on providing exposure and support to up-and-coming talent. One way the museum is able to tap the energy of fresh and innovative artwork being made in the region is through the Midwest Photographers Project, or MPP for short. MPP is a rotating collection of portfolios on loan from artists for a three-year period. “Oftentimes we see artists making exciting new bodies of work that are still in progress or have recently been completed,” says MoCP’s Executive Director Natasha Egan. “We may not be ready or able to acquire the artwork for the museum’s collection or to display it in an exhibition. In those cases, we include artists in MPP, where their works are accessible to students and researchers looking to learn about what’s new in the field.” The collection is made accessible to the public by appointment in the museum’s Print Study Room and via the museum’s website

Egan recommends checking out portfolios by Zora J. Murff and Clarissa Bonet. Both artists make photographs about particular aspects of life in their hometowns.

Zora J. Murff (American, b. 1987; resides in Cedar Rapids, IA)

With a background in psychology and social services, Zora J. Murff began a position at Iowa’s Linn County Juvenile Detention and Diversion Services in 2012. Working with minors on probation as a “Tracker,” he was responsible for keeping tabs of their whereabouts (either digitally or in person), and assisting in their rehabilitation. According to the artist, “Tracking and other similar community-based services are being increasingly used as an alternative to detention facilities. These services, which allow juveniles to stay in their homes, show a higher rate of success than strict incarceration.”[1] Reflecting on the relationships the artist forms with the juveniles he serves— which range from stable to contentious—Murff began his ongoing series Corrections in 2013. His images portray not only young people and the ephemera related to their probation, but also offer a glimpse into the systems that are used to contain the individuals.  Obscuring his subjects’ faces, Murff’s images focus on themes broader than personal identity –including control, privacy, and personal development—and the ways these issues are embedded in the juvenile corrections system.

Corrections will be on view in an upcoming solo exhibition at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The project has also been shown at Filter Space, Chicago, IL; ARCADE Museum, St. Louis, MO; and SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA, among other galleries and institutions.

The street scenes in Clarissa Bonet’s ongoing project City Space (2011-2016) are re-staged from events she witnesses as a pedestrian living in Chicago. Though the city is densely populated, Bonet seeks to express her sense of isolation within the continuous crowd of strangers. Her images represent fleeting encounters with anonymous individuals, which unfold against the stark contrast of light and shadow shaped by the city’s looming architecture. These are reinterpretations of chance encounters and observations, yet Bonet’s images offer a glimpse into the unique psychological experience of living within an interminable urban landscape.

Bonet is represented in Chicago by Catherine Edelman Gallery, where her solo exhibition City Space + Stray Light recently closed. She has exhibited widely at venues including Workspace Gallery, Lincoln, NE; the Annenberg Space for Photography, Los Angeles, CA; and the Aperture Foundation, New York, NY


MoCP is located at 600 S. Michigan, Chicago, IL 60605. Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10-5, Thursday till 8, Sunday, 12-5. Admission is always free, $5 suggested donation.