The Deutsche Börse Photography Prize, London
The Deutsche Börse Photography Prize is awarded annually to a living photographer for the most significant contribution to photography in Europe. This year’s shortlist illustrates the diversity of the photographic medium, ranging from neo-conceptual to social documentary, with all four finalists worthy and dissimilar - which makes for a close and unpredictable running.
First up is Thomas Demand, nominated for his retrospective at Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, which included over 40 large-scale works spanning 15 years. Demand chose to show one photograph from the nominated exhibition, but it dominates the space with sheer scale. Heldenorgel (Heroes’ Organ) is a photograph of a three-dimensional 1:1 paper replica of a freestanding church organ. The instrument lives on the German-Austrian border and was built in 1931 to commemorate WWI casualties. The same haunting tune has been playing every day at noon for over 80 years. With 4,307 pipes and 46 registers, it is the largest open-air organ in the world. It took nearly three months to construct a paper replica.
Then there’s Jim Goldberg, nominated for Open See at The Photographers’ Gallery. A self-described ’documentary storyteller’, he combines Polaroids, video, text, ephemera and large and medium format photographs to document the experiences of what he calls ’new Europeans’ - illegal immigrants, refugees, displaced people and asylum seekers from Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
Miami-born Roe Ethridge is nominated for his solo exhibition at Les Rencontres d’Arles in France. He playfully addresses the redundancy of the image and the impossibility of photographic originality. His large-format colour photographs are composited from any mad thing he decides to include, e.g. magazine work (Old Fruit); a magnified and grainy close-up of a sticker on his daughter’s notebook (Pumpkin Sticker).
The individual images remain inconclusive and deadpan, revealing nothing. In this way, Ethridge composes visual fugues that acquire their meaning from the seemingly random way they have been grouped, shuffled and arranged in nonlinear narrative sequences.
Elad Lassry is nominated for his first comprehensive institutionalized exhibition, self-titled at Kunsthalle Zurich, Switzerland. Lassry intersperses small-scale portraits, still lives and filmic works, each mounted at eye level and contained in uniform 11 x 14 picture frames. The tacky frames are painted to match the singular dominating colour within the oversaturated picture plane.
Lassry’s objective is the instability and suspension of the image, to expose new possibilities of depiction and duplication. He constantly shifts between original and found materials to build collages of pre-existing imagery and allude to the language of product photography. He opens a conversation between photography and moving image to consider ideas of authorship and appropriation, and to change the standard questions that are asked about images.