The Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2015 is an annual prize established by The Photographers’ Gallery, London in 1996 and in partnership with Deutsche Börse Groupsince 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 2015.
This year’s shortlist reflects a diversity of attitudes towards the medium underpinned by an exploration into new and unexpected modes of presentation incorporating video, text, object and wall-based photographic displays.
Nikolai Bakharev’s ambiguous images of Russian bathers on public beaches in the 80s and 90s, at a time when photographs of nudity were forbidden, play on the tension between acceptable and unacceptable imagery, public and private realms. In the work of Zanele Muholi, the personal and political are also interwoven in her tender, unflinching portraits and testimonies of the South African LGBTI community.
South Africa further provides a location and point of political departure in the work of Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse. Their collaborative publication presents a, ‘photo/graphic’ album of images and text which uncover the history of a once elite, now abandoned high-rise apartment block in Johannesburg. Finally, Viviane Sassen’s sculptural, abstracted, darkly sensual images continue to effect the blurring of genres, which characterize her work and position her as a leading force in contemporary art photography.
Viviane Sassen (b. 1972, Netherlands) has been nominated for her exhibition Umbra at Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam (8 March – 1 June 2014).
Encompassing abstract photography, drawings, light installations the work is accompanied by specially commissioned poems from artist and poet, Maria Barnas. Sassen’s distinctive and experimental approach to image foregrounds vivid colour alongside stark contrasts of light and shade in sculptural compositions where form and content verge on abstraction.
Mikhael Subotzky (b. 1981, South Africa) and Patrick Waterhouse (b. 1981, UK) are nomimated for their publication Ponte City (Steidl, 2014).
The 54-floor apartment block in Johannesburg was built in 1976 for white sophisticates under the apartheid regime. 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 before 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.
Nikolai Bakharev (b. 1946, Russia) has been nominated 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 and set up a tension between composed and spontaneous groupings.
Zanele Muholi (b. 1972, South Africa) has been nominated for her publication Faces and Phases 2006 – 2014 (Steidl, 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 the ‘curative’ rape of black gay women, which often results in murder. Muholi’s archive of photographs forms an important force in female gay activism.