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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For further information please visit: www.thephotographersgallery.org.uk
Images by CELLOPHANELAND* and The Photographer’s Gallery.