The Deutsche Börse Prize 2014 at The Photographers Gallery

20 May 2014 § Leave a comment

As the most valuable and prestigious photography competition in the UK the Deutsche Borse Prize is always well worth a close look as a good assessment of the most important photographic work of the previous twelve months.

Deutsche Börse Prize

It is interesting to note that the previous two awards were noticeable in their brave selection of two winners who were actually not photographers. If this sounds rather strange I should explain that these two winners actually used photography within their practice, but as the basis for works of collage: John Stezaker (2012) and Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin (2013). Hopefully this acted as a little, lets say, encouragement to The Photographers Gallery to be a little more adventurous in the exhibition schedule – some feel that they have erred to the cautious side in recent years – and indeed this years finalists indeed proved to be a worthy choice.

Deutsche Börse Prize

The four contenders were Alberto Garcia-Alix, Jochen Lempert, Richard Mosse and Lorna Simpson. Garcia-Alix is a personal and social documentary photographer whose black and white images often are quite dark – in both subject and nature. His works reflect both intimacy and excess, where photography – and occasionally video – is used to mediate his own neuroses and inner battles. This is effectively an exhibition of his own life.

Deutsche Börse Prize

Lempert’s approach veers between poetic and scientific. His modest-looking works are pinned simply to the walls or displayed in glass cases. Understated it is easy to miss the subtle associations and multiple links that his works cleverly weave.

Deutsche Börse Prize

Irishman Richard Mosse takes finely crafted images of war-torn Congo, but in a simple twist shoots them on false-colour infra-red film. The resultant images here are predominantly pink-hued and provide an other-wordly beauty to scenes that would otherwise be relatively mundane. Mosse effectively points at the failure of documentary photography and its inability to adequately communicate this horrific cycle of violence.

Deutsche Börse Prize

Lorna Simpson’s work initially appears to be a series of found 1950’s images of women in varied poses. On a closer look Simpson has interred parallel images of herself taken in similar format and style. Emphasizing a conceptual and performative approach, she asks questions of the predominately male gaze as well as identity, and culture.

Deutsche Börse Prize

And the winner was…. Richard Mosse. Of course. Another worthy winner in a series of excellent Prize exhibitions. Oh yes, and don’t forget to visit the excellent cafe.

The Deutsche Börse Photography prize 2014 is at The Photographers Gallery, Ramillies Street, London W1F 7LW until 13 July 2014.


john stezaker wins deutsche borse prize 2012

4 September 2012 § Leave a comment

John Stezaker was announced as the Deutsche Borse Photography Prize winner at The Photographers Gallery last night. As I cleverly predicted in a recent blog Stezaker snaffled the £30,000 first price from the shortlist of four. Actually I can claim little credit for being particularly perceptive as there seemed to be a general consensus within those I haven spoken to about the award that he was the clear favourite for this years prize. 

I feel rather sorry for the runners up because the playing field was not that level. The prize is judged on a ‘specific body of work’ and in this case it was Stezaker’s Whitechapel show – ie: a review of his entire life’s work – whilst his competitors merely offered up specific collections such as Rinko Kawauchi‘s Illuminations book.

Still, his win was well deserved. He received his prize from past winner Juergen Teller. All speeches were gratifyingly brief, with a very modest Stezaker making a short Oscar-worthy speech thanking everyone down to his 11 year old son.

The exhibition comprising the shortlist of four – Stezaker, Rinko Kawauchi, Pieter Hugo and John Williams – is still on for another week. I would recommend that you catch it whilst you can.

The Deutsche Borse Photography Prize 2012 exhibition is at The Photographers Gallery until 9 September 2012

High House Gallery is currently featuring John Stezaker in The Momentarily Absurd exhibition, running until 16 September 2012. They currently have two works available for sale.

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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