The four shortlisted artists for the twelfth Deutsche Börse Photography Prize are Laura El-Tantawy, Erik Kessels, Trevor Paglen and Tobias Zielony.
Established in 1996 by The Photographers’ Gallery, and presented in partnership with Deutsche Börse Group since 2005, the annual prize rewards a body of work – either exhibition or publication format – from a photographer of any nationality, who has made a significant contribution to photography in Europe in the last year (1 Oct 2014 – 30 Sep 2015).
Egyptian/British photographer Laura El-Tantawy has been nominated for her self-published photobook In the Shadow of the Pyramids (2015). Close-up photographs of protestors and street scenes of fervent crowds in Cairo during the January revolution in Tahrir Square, are mixed in with local witness accounts, alongside old family photographs from her childhood growing up between Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the US. Shot between 2005-2014, the series is a heady combination of documentary photography, portraits, and more dynamic, abstract images, jarring with the retro, candid shapshots.
Dutch art director, curator and photography collector Erik Kessels has been nominated for his exhibition Unfinished Father at Fotografia Europea, Reggio Emilia, Italy (15 May – 31 July 2015). In this highly personal project, Kesssels brings together photographs of car parts and images taken by his father, exhibited alongside the pieces of his father’s unfinished restoration project, an unassembled Fiat 500 (Topolino). It was the fifth his father had worked on, half completed when he suffered a stroke, and unfortunately he has since barely been able to move or speak. For Kessels the car came to represent his unfinished father, forever interrupted, as he writes on his website. This is strong, albeit surprising contender, from an image-maker well-known for his surreal found photography publications.
American interdisciplinary artist and investigative journalist Trevor Paglen (USA) has been nominated for his exhibition The Octopus at Frankfurter Kunstverein in Frankfurt (20 June – 30 August 2015). It deals with issues around mass surveillance, political influence, data collection and drone activities. The installation is comprised of images depicting restricted military and government areas taken using limit-telephotography, and skylines of flight tracks from drones, shown alongside research assembled with scientists, amateur astronomers and human rights activists.
German photographer Tobias Zielony has been nominated for The Citizen, exhibited as part of the German Pavilion presentation at the 56th Biennale of Arts in Venice (9 May – 22 Nov 2015). Shot mainly in Berlin and Hamburg, the series documents the lives of African refugee activists in Europe, many of whom have escaped violence and in search of freedom and security, only to find themselves living as outsiders in refugee camps without legal representation or work permits. To produce a deeper narrative around migration, and shift the power towards self-portrayal, Zielony punctuates the iamges with personal accounts from the refugees, interviews by him, and newspapers and magazines reporting on the images.
“The work of this year’s four nominees address some of the most urgent political and social issues of our time,” said Brett Rogers, director of The Photographers’ Gallery.“All these subjects are of great consequence and relevance today – and one which photography, as a multifarious and accessible medium, is uniquely suited to explore.”
This years judges were director of Cardiff’s Ffotogallery, David Drake; artist Alfredo Jaar; senior curator at The Hague Museum of Photography, Wim van Sinderen; curator of art collection at Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation, Anne-Marie Beckmann; and Brett Rogers, as the non-voting chair.
Work from the shortlisted photographers will be exhibited at The Photographers’ Gallery 16 April – 26 June 2016, with the winner being announced during the exhibition run, and presented with the £30,000 prize.