The Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2015: Shortlist Announced

The Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2015 is an annual prize established by The Photographers’ Gallery, London in 1996 and in partnership with Deutsche Börse Group since 2005. The annual award of £30,000 rewards a living photographer, of any nationality, for a specific body of work in an exhibition or publication format, which is felt to have significantly contributed to photography in Europe between 1 October 2013 and 30 September 2014. The four artists shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2015 are Nikolai Bakharev, Zanele Muholi , Viviane Sassen and Mikhael Subotzky & Patrick Waterhouse.

United Kingdom – The Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2015 is an annual prize established by The Photographers’ Gallery, London in 1996 and in partnership with Deutsche Börse Group since 2005. The annual award of £30,000 rewards a living photographer, of any nationality, for a specific body of work in an exhibition or publication format, which is felt to have significantly contributed to photography in Europe between 1 October 2013 and 30 September 2014. The four artists shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2015 are Nikolai BakharevZanele MuholiViviane Sassen and Mikhael Subotzky & Patrick Waterhouse.  This year’s selection showcases a diversity of photographic approaches including video and object and text based works, encompassing social documentary, portraiture and contemporary art photography. The shortlisted artists were nominated for the following projects: Nikolai Bakharev (b. 1946, Russia) for his exhibition at the 55th Biennale of Art in Venice (1 June – 24 November 2013). Bakharev trained as a mechanic before working as a Communal Services Factory photographer in the 1960s. Bakharev’s portraits of bathers on Russian public beaches blur the boundaries between the public and private, creating a tension between composed and spontaneous groupings. They were predominantly taken during the 1980s when photographs containing nudity were strictly forbidden. Though the families and couples are wearing bathing suits and willingly pose for the camera, the resulting images are furtive with an undercurrent of subterfuge and eroticism. Zanele Muholi (b. 1972, South Africa) for the publication Faces and Phases 2006 – 2014 (co-published by Steidl and The Walther Collection, 2014). A self-titled visual activist, Zanele Muholi’s black and white portraits offer an insight into black LGBTI identity and politics in post-apartheid South Africa. Emphasising a conceptual and personal approach, the uncompromising images and accompanying first-person testimonies reflect the impact of homophobia, discrimination and violence, most notably ‘curative rape’ of black gay women, which often results in murder. Muholi’s archive of photographs forms an important force in female gay activism.  

DBPP4Vuyelwa Vuvu Makubetse, Daveyton Johannesburg, from the series ‘Faces and Phases’, 2013 © Zanele Muholi

  Mikhael Subotzky (b. 1981, South Africa) and Patrick Waterhouse (b. 1981, UK) for their publication Ponte City (Steidl, 2014). The 54-floor apartment block in Johannesburg was built in 1976 for the white elite under apartheid rule. During the political transition in the 1980s and 90s, it became a refuge for black newcomers to the city and immigrants from all over Africa. Over the yearse decline and neglect led to it being positioned as the prime symbol of urban decay in the city and the supposed epicentre of crime, prostitution and drug dealing. Subotzky and Waterhouse began their project in 2007 working with the remaining residents, after a failed regeneration project. Through photographs, architectural plans, and archival and historical material Subotzky and Waterhouse created an intimate and evocative social portrait of the building’s community of residents and their culture. An additional sequence of seventeen booklets containing essays and personal stories complete the visual and spatial narrative of this Johannesburg landmark. Viviane Sassen (b. 1972, Netherlands) for her exhibition Umbra at Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam (8 March – 1 June 2014). The exhibition presented abstract photography, drawings and light installations accompanied by specially commissioned poems from artist and poet, Maria Barnas. Sassen’s distinctive and experimental approach to images foregrounds vivid colour alongside stark contrasts of light and shade in sculptural compositions where form and content verge on abstraction. In Umbra, Latin for shadow, the characteristic qualities of Sassen’s work support darker sensibilities, informed by the Jungian theory of the ‘shadow self’. This notion taps into personal fear, desire and shame as well as expressing more abstract concepts of the unknown, time and death.  

DBPP3Axiom GB01, from the series ‘Axiom’, 2014 © Viviane Sassen

The members of the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2015 jury are: Chris Boot, Executive Director, Aperture Foundation; Rineke Dijkstra, Artist; Peter Gorschlüter, Deputy Director, MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst and Anne Marie Beckmann, Curator, Art Collection Deutsche Börse.

Brett Rogers, Director of The Photographers’ Gallery, and non-voting Chair of the Jury said: This year’s shortlist reflects a diversity of attitudes towards the medium underpinned by an exploration into new and unexpected modes of presentation. The tension between public and private as a point of enquiry is reflected in the work of Nikolai Bakharev,whose images of Russian bathers expose the political hypocrisy around permitted imagery in the former USSR. Similarly in the work of Zanele Muholi, the personal and political become interwoven in her tender, unflinching portraits and testimonies of the South African LGBTI community. South African political and social issues are also featured in the work of Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse. Their collaborative publication presents an album of images and texts, uncovering the history of a once elite, now abandoned high-rise apartment block in Johannesburg. And finally, Viviane Sassen’s sculptural, abstract, sensual images continue to effect the blurring of genres, which characterise her work and position her as a leading force in contemporary photography.

Frank Klaas, Managing Director Global Public Affairs, Deutsche Börse said: We are delighted to announce this year’s shortlist for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2015. The four artists showcase the broad artistic approaches, social documentary concerns and imaginative use of form and content that this prize celebrates. We are particularly pleased that the exhibition will be presented for the first time in Frankfurt’s MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst. The winner will be announced at a special award ceremony held at The Photographers’ Gallery on 28 May 2015.

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