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2021 SPE Annual Conference: Imagining Legacy: Archives, Collections, and Memoria

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Zora Murff

Corrections: Image, Influence, and Identification

Saturday, October 08 - 11:00AM to 12:00PM
Lindell Room A - Chase Park Plaza

The use of the image in the criminal justice system has deep roots in American society. Stemming from phrenological daguerreotypes of African slaves and the anthropometric Bertillon System, the mugshot serves the role of defining the dichotomy between citizen and criminal; the photograph provides context to shape perception. Over the past few years, there has been a sea change in opinion of American correctional practices, but media images of those deemed “criminal” still provide a view of those in its grasps as the “other”. For three years, Zora J Murff was employed by a juvenile detention facility in Eastern Iowa providing services to kids on probation. While working there, he photographed those in his charge, culminating in the series Corrections. The series explores stigmas attached to images of incarceration and questions our consumption of and collective belief in images. Through obscurity, the individuals he photographed no longer have a face, rebuffing our ability to solely identify and replacing it with the desire to identify with those depicted.

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