Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2012 reviewed by Zara Meerza – The Photographers’ Gallery
The newly reopened Photographers’ Gallery is a haven of glass and light. Following Edward Burtynsky’s ‘Oil’ exhibition it was pleasing to see that the images provided by the shortlisted nominees of the Deutsche Borse Photography Prize continued to provide variety in content and aesthetic form. The images by Pieter Hugo, Rinko Kawauchi, John Stezaker and Christopher Williams very well highlight the diversity of contemporary photography. Each photographer featured presents an alternating theme delivered by use of a differing aesthetic technique.
Yakubu Al Hasan, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana 2009 © Pieter Hugo
Hugo’s images of life on a Kenyan industrial wasteland begin the exhibition with startling clarity and affronting gazes. The large-scale images, part of the series `Permanent Error’, pierce the viewer with their definition and focus. Colours are bleak and the subject matter even more so, yet there is a compelling beauty to images such as ’Yakubu Al Hasan, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana’ (2009), where a bundle of tangled wires are held atop the head of a young man as though a reclaimed crown.
Rinko Kawauchi Untitled, from the series of “Illuminance” 2009 Copyright © Rinko Kawauchi
Hung in the same room are Kawauchi’s images from the series ‘Illuminance’, the heart shifts between the walls that display the works of these two artists. Kawauchi’s work is almost self consciously trendy. The photographs she presents would not look out of place on the Tumblr page of any precocious teen who’s just discovered Instagram. That’s not to say that there isn’t a definite appeal that draws you into her work. Newton-esque blues and scattered, soft light permeate the images that take everyday life, the miniscule and often forgotten moments and highlight them with a haze of crystalline colours. Aesthetically Kawauchi’s images are sweetly strong, though in comparison to the Hugo images with which they are paired, conceptually they seem weak, lacking the commitment demanded by what came before.
John Stezaker Marriage (Film Portrait Collage) XLIII 2007 Collage 25×20 cm, 9.8×7.9 ins Courtesy of the artist and The Approach, London
On the floor below the work of John Stezaker is displayed alongside the work of Christopher Williams. Stezaker presents a disorienting and often amusing juxtaposition of found photographs, illustrations and stills sourced from a variety of media. Most seem lifted from 1950’s black and white magazines and provide humorous half hidden smiles of businessmen and obscured images of sweethearts. Certainly the most playful of the images on display, in his use of orientation, collage and scale Stezaker entertains in a way that perhaps damages the impact of the decidedly more staid and simplistic images presented by Williams, which explore the innards and details of technical apparatus. Appearing at the exhibitions end, these admittedly wildly colorful photographs failed to inspire. Following the diversity of technique displayed by the photographers that proceeded, William’s work acts as a sharp full stop to the lucidity that permeates the bulk of the exhibition.
Fachhochschule Aachen, Fachbereich Gestaltung, Studiengang: Visuelle Kommunikation, Fotolabor für Studenten, Boxgraben 100, Aachen, November 8th, 2010 2010 Archival Pigment Print 61 x 50,8 cm (paper) 97,2 x 83,8 cm (framed)
While some of the work on display is clearly more inventive than others, overall this is an accessible exhibition that caters to many tastes. The diversity of the age, nationalities and backgrounds of the photographers are also worth noting. It seems the Photographers Gallery is growing increasingly more interested in expanding the range of work it displays, this being the next stepping-stone in that journey.
As a standalone exhibition, though the works don’t necessarily appear at their best when displayed in the context of competition, this is certainly a short and engaging exhibition worth an exploration of your own accord.
The £30,000 award will be presented to the winner of the Deutsche Borse Photography Prize 2012 on September 3rd 2012. The exhibition runs from 13 July – 9 September 2012.
The Photographers’ Gallery
16 – 18 Ramillies St
Tel: 0845 262 1618