Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

Deutsche Börse photography prize 2013

It is probably fair to say that amongst photographers I know this prize is the most controversial. The photographers shortlisted almost always reflect the edges of photography where camera skills and traditional subject matter are of little importance. For example one of the short listed artists, Mishka Henner,  for the prize this year presents pictures from the google street view car cameras where he has selected views that include street sex workers.

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Mishka Henner, Carretera de Fortuna, Murcia, Spain, 2012

Another, Cristina de Middel, who reimagines the 60s space programme in Zambia. I know it barely warrants thinking about

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Cristina De Middel, The Afronauts, 2012

Chris Killip is probably the only name you might recognise and the only one on the shortlist that makes photographs like a photographer.

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Chris Killip, Youth on Wall, Jarrow, Tyneside, 1976

Chris Killip (b. 1946, UK) is nominated for his exhibition What Happened – Great Britain 1970 –1990 at LE BAL, Paris (12 May – 19 August 2012).

British born Killip has been taking photographs for nearly five decades.What Happened – Great Britain comprises black and white images of working people in the north of England, taken by Killip in the 1970s and 1980s. After spending months immersed in several communities, Killip documented the disintegration of the industrial past with a poetic and highly personal point of view.

The final artists shortlisted for this prize are

Adam Broomberg (b. 1970, South Africa) and Oliver Chanarin (b. 1971, UK) are nominated for their publication War Primer 2 (MACK, 2012).

War Primer 2 is a limited edition book that physically inhabits the pages of Bertold Brecht’s remarkable 1955 publication War Primer. Brecht’s photo-essay comprises 85 images, photographic fragments or collected newspaper clippings, that were placed next to a four-line poem, called ‘photo-epigrams’. Broomberg and Chanarin layered Google search results for the poems over Brecht’s originals.

For full details of the  Deutsche Börse photography prize 2013 There is an exhibition at The Photographers Gallery and much more information here 

For a much more teeth grinding experience have a look at the video on the Guardian website  where the excellent Sean O’Hagen discusses the work with the photographers/artists involved. Sean O’Hagan meets the nominees for the annual Deutsche Börse photography prize: Mishka Henner, who puts Google Street View to imaginative use; Cristina de Middel, who reimagines the 60s space programme in Zambia; Chris Killip, who asks What Happened, Great Britain; and duo Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, who have reworked a Bertolt Brecht book.

It is hard to tell if this prize and exhibition actually does good or bad for photography. Most people seeing the work of these four artists would recognise Chris Killip as a photographer but would struggle with the other three.

further reading on the Guardian website comes courtesy of 

A sociologist by training, Henner presents (or rather, re-presents) the images without comment. Henner annoys me. For other projects, he has digitally removed the figures from Robert Frank’s The Americans, and overlain Gerhard Richter’s blurry, photographically based paintings with words and phrases taken from Ed Ruscha’s work. Ho ho, you say. Real complexity lies elsewhere……….It was never going to get off the ground. De Middel’s photographs, drawings and re-photographed letters conflate original material with her own reconstructions and fantasy. A space camp shelters under a boabab tree; cosmonauts wander through a village of straw huts; a man in a wax-batik patterned spacesuit struggles through a cane field. Yinka Shonibare has presented a family of astronauts in similar garb floating in mid-air. What goes around comes around. All this works better in the little self-published book De Middel made of her project – now out of print and selling, I am told, for more than £1,000.

can you be bothered to learn more about these three artists and one photographer if so go here

What do you think?

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3 responses to “Deutsche Börse photography prize 2013

  1. Jane Buekett April 22, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    What’s photography – especially today? Something on your phone? And what is an image that looks like a photograph? Of these, I have seen the Chris Killip before and it is in a strong tradition of documentary photography, but it is not going to change me, not now. The War Primer stuff is too cerebral for me, but the other two are interesting. Mishka Henner’s Google Earth pictures are disturbing and the few on the website have a remarkable consistency in narrative. They make you feel something and they make you think. If photography is the decisive moment then is choosing these images so different from framing the shot? And Christina de Middel’s photos are strangely beautiful and fascinating (racist? I don’t know). I haven’t seen anything like these before and they intrigue and move me more than yet more Magnum-style journalism.
    Well – you did ask.

    • oxfordschoolofphotography April 22, 2013 at 8:34 pm

      as always controversial and to the point. I am not sure I do agree with you on this, I can’t get away from the fact that a photographer requires a camera, what they do with it is the interesting thing. Grabbing images from the web someone or something else has recorded does not make a photographer, it might well make an artist who uses photographic images, in some places these are referred to as lens based artists, how limiting is that? For me the de Middel images of African would be spacemen is concept over content and both fail. Fortunately these are just my opinions so carry no weight at all.

  2. Pingback: Computational photography: the snap is only the start | Oxford School of Photography

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