A collaborative project by Rana Young and Zora J Murff handles some difficult family memories via new work and family photographs
“Collaboration is a comfortable way of telling our stories in the company of someone else, as this content is too heavy for each of us to revisit alone,” says Rana Young, a Masters student at the University of Nebraska, who’s worked with fellow student Zora J Murff to make a series called Fade Like A Sigh.
Initially thrown together by sharing a studio, the pair got talking and soon realised they had much in common. Both come from the Midwest and take a similar approach to photographing “imagery that describes home, or place generally”; both grew up with an absent parent.
“Our personal experiences of that are unique, but through conversation we found a commonality,” says Young. “It’s easy to assume that your exposure to a shared experience is different to someone else’s.”
Working together felt like a natural next step but they didn’t start to do so until last Autumn, when they were offered a two-person show. Finding images that didn’t quite fit into their other projects, they compared them and “began to notice how well they worked together, and that started to lay the foundation for the series,” says Murff.
Both have inherited small collections of family photographs rather than more traditional family albums, and both place high importance on these mementoes; when putting together their final edit, they decided to acknowledge their continuing power by including them – even when, as in a shot of Murff’s family, they’re blurred or under-exposed.
“It was important to me that we include Zora’s family photograph,” says Young. “The image being obscured symbolises his father losing sight of what his family had meant to him.”