I must confess, I’ve fallen rather behind with my blog posts. The photos from this exhibition were taken exactly a month ago today. In my defence, we have had my parents staying for over a week and we’ve been preparing for three exhibitions that include @spottedhyenas’ work (Inspired By… PRISM Fracture and the upcoming ‘Textile Alchemy’ at the WAC Gallery).
So a month ago I went to the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize at the Photographers Gallery, London. I’ve been taking photos since the early 90s, when I used to spend hours in the darkroom, trying to produce the perfect print. So I guess my eye has always been drawn, like EM Forster’s George Emerson, to the pursuit of ‘truth and beauty’. I love images that enchant, pull you in and then make you question what you know. I tell you this because I came away from the exhibition with a firm favourite, and guess what, for once my favourite won!
Established in 1996 by The Photographers’ Gallery and sponsored by the Deutsche Börse Group since 2005, the prize is awarded to a photographer who has made a significant contribution to photography in Europe in the previous year. This year the shortlist seems to be pooled from photographers whose work is deeply political and conceptual.
Egyptian/British photographer Laura El-Tantawy was shortlisted for her self-published book In the Shadow of the Pyramids. In it, she juxtaposes photos taken in Cairo in lead up to the 2011 Egyptian revolution with images from her childhood in Cairo, merging the social and domestic with the political upheaval and dissent.
Shown in the German Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale, Tobias Zielony’s work documents the plight of refugees in his country, focusing not on their harrowing journeys, but on the empty confusion of their arrival at the refugee camps. The lack of meaningful support, and an understanding of their plight, highlights the difficulties faced by everyone involved in the mass migration prompted by war, poverty and the quest for a better life.
Erik Kessels has been nominated for his exhibition Unfinished Father, a highly personal project that examines the death of his father, and its personal consequences. As a committed ‘petrol-head’ his father restored Fiat Topolinos, and the last unfinished chassis sits as a metaphor for all our ‘unfinished’ relationships, surrounded by panels and images that document the components of the project and his father’s life.
The final artist is American Trevor Paglen. The project he has been shortlisted for is The Octopus, an installation that examines and documents mass surveillance, restricted military and government areas and the rise of drone technology. Combining maps, images and flightpaths, with images of scientists and human rights activists, this ambitious project imbues the beautiful, almost abstract, images on show with layers of meaning and depth, questioning some of the troubling developments of technology, secrecy and surveillance happening today. And because of this, and the beauty of the images, Paglen was my favourite.