deutsche borse prize at the photographers gallery

23 July 2012 § 2 Comments

The recently refurbished Photographers Gallery in Ramillies Street (tucked somewhere behind Liberty’s) is now an essential stop on any arty day in central London. Following on from the excellent, if safe, Edward Burtynsky exhibition is the show for the four finalists for the annual Deutsche Borse Prize.

This years finalists are John Stezaker, fresh from his successful show at the Whitechapel last year, Rinko Kawauchi,  Pieter Hugo and Christopher Williams.

Stezaker here presents some familiar works. Faces are overlaid with scenic postcards – caves or tunnels intriguingly merging with anthropomorphic features. Film stars’ promotional photos are sliced and merged – male & female becoming strange and schizophrenic wholes. Least immediate, but strangely compulsive are his ‘lost figures’ –  cut from larger images these tiny photographic fragments feature blurry or featureless lone figures snatched from obscurity and given their moment in the limelight.

Rinko Kawauchi is famed for his/her photobooks that feature delicate images that snatch moments of sublime beauty from the everyday. The work is quite masterful in creating such captivating images from almost nothing – a technique that many attempt but few get close to mastering. Yet, for me, on the gallery wall its poetic power and beauty is drained. Its delicacy is somehow lost. Better see these images in her photobooks like Illuminance (Heidelberg Press July 2011, appx £35).

Christopher Williams captures images of cameras, models, vehicles and other technical apparatus. Alluding to and borrowing from the world of advertising, his conceptual approach supposedly ‘questions our understanding of reality as reflected and communicated to us through photographs’. Passed me by I’m afraid.

Pieter Hugo’s work is based in Ghana and features large-scale portraits of the slum-dwellers whose lives revolve around a vast dump for technological waste. The works are poignant and beautifully executed, but nevertheless I had the feeling I had seen similar many times before, not least in endless Sunday magazine supplements.

The prize is theoretically based on particular bodies of work. Stezaker for example on his Whitechapel show, Kawauchi on the book Illuminance and so on. Stezaker wins hands-down on the walls of the gallery and is the likely and deserved winner, but Kawauchi’s book is so special that I have a feeling it might sneak off with the prize.

Make your own choice until 9 September 2012 at The Photographers Gallery.

Also at TPG until 9 September 2012 is a wonderful exhibition of Contemporary Japanese Photobooks. Pop on the fashionable white gloves supplied and browse through hundreds of amazing books. Allow loads of time and take a break in their pleasant caff.

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