Every year without fail, the Prize of the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation drew our attention to photographers offering unique perspectives on the most crucial issues of the moment. Throughout its 26-year history, this influential award has showcased a range of artists who may be divergent in their backgrounds, approach and themes, but who are united in their shared commitments to sensitively explore their distinct and complex realities.
While this year’s winner has yet to be announced, the work of the four nominated artists – Deana Lawson, Gilles Peress, Jo Ractliffe, and Anastasia Samoilova – will be exposed to The photographers gallery later this month. “The four nominated artists embody very distinctive approaches to visual storytelling. Collectively, they are grappling with some of our most pressing issues – reflecting on and providing thought-provoking perspectives on the representation of conflict and its consequences; on climate catastrophe, and on the ties that unite us across generations and dispersed geographies,” Katrina Schwarz, the curator of the exhibition, tells Dazed. “Each artist is rigorous and idiosyncratic in their approach – demonstrating a keen awareness of their context, their relationship to history and language – visual or otherwise – and a responsibility to address their own position in relation to about her.”
Deana Lawsonnominated for her exhibition centropia which took place at Kunsthalle Basel in 2021, is best known for its formal yet intimate portrayals of black bodies in public and private life. Schwarz explains, “She has a respect for intergenerational connectivity within black culture and describes her subjects as forming an ever-expanding mythological extended family. This body of work continues Lawson’s exploration and questioning of conventional representations of black life. centropia is Deana Lawson’s most direct statement of her abiding interest in the sacred and the celestial. In the upcoming Photographer’s Gallery exhibition, his large-scale photographic works are placed in large frames constructed from mirror glass. Schwarz says:Holograms and images of sublime natural phenomena, such as galaxies and tilting waterfalls, reinforce this sense of the cosmic.
Gilles Peress Whatever you say, don’t say anything is described by Schwarz like “a publication of monumental ambition and complexity”. Exploring the conflict in Northern Ireland, this expansive tome of staggering scope spans 2,000 pages, including 1,295 images spread over two volumes, accompanied by an almanac of background material. Schwarz tells us:Peress tests the limits of photography to record and understand conflict and to this end he uses the unique structure of organizing the photographs over 22 semi-fictional days. The gallery will feature large-scale installations of his work, reminiscent of the depiction of the conflict in the murals of Derry and Belfast, and the walls strewn with graffiti and bullet holes.
“The four nominated artists embody very distinctive approaches to visual storytelling. Collectively, they are grappling with some of our most pressing issues – reflecting on and providing thought-provoking perspectives on the representation of conflict and its consequences; about climate catastrophe, and about the ties that bind us across generations and dispersed geographies” – Katrina Schwarz
For more than three decades, Jo Ractliffe documented the landscape of South Africa. Schwarz tells us:Ractliffe bears witness to the complexity of a country marked by the violence of apartheid, as well as the aftermath of the civil war in neighboring Angola. His flagship work Photographs from the 1980s to today is a comprehensive visual account of the country’s traumatic past, comprised of important photographic essays, early works and recently released images. “Jo Ractliffe’s austere images are distinct from social documentary. She is drawn to silent poetics, not direct political address,” says Schwarz of this haunting imagery. “Its visual language is distinctive – it is marked by desolation and absence but, as sites of massacre, forced displacement and violence – these images are neither silent nor empty.”
flood zone East Anastasia SamoilovaThe ongoing photographic series explores environmental change in America’s coastal cities, with a particular focus on Florida, the photographer’s home since 2016. The color palette may be tropical and pastel, but there’s also a danger” , said Schwarz. Samoylova’s images tell a story of cityscapes overrun by the natural world as Miami’s ambitious art deco buildings begin to reveal signs of the increasingly calamitous situation we seem to be heading inexorably towards. “The dynamic geometry and vibrant colors on the gallery walls reflect the tools used by advertisers and developers in Florida. It is a dazzling kaleidoscope that aims to seduce and disorient the viewer.
Take a look at the gallery above for an overview of the work of each photographer nominated for the 2022 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation award.
The Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2022 exhibition will be on view at the Photographers’ Gallery, London from March 25 to June 12, 2022, with the winner announced on May 12, 2022