As Sophie Calle, Dana Lixenberg, Awoiska van der Molen, and Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs' work goes on show at The Photographers' Gallery, we republish our insight into this year's shortlist
Questions of truth and fiction, doubt and certainty, and the relationship between the observer and the observed are the key themes of the 2017 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize.
The £30,000 prize 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 the medium of photography between 1 October 2015 and 30 September 2016.
Sophie Calle, born in 1953 in France, has been nominated for her publication My All which finds the artist experimenting with yet another medium – the postcard set. Taking stock of her entire œuvre, this set of postcards functions as a portfolio of Calle’s work, as well as a new investigation of it, in an appropriately nomadic format.
Over the past thirty years, Sophie Calle has invited strangers to sleep in her bed, followed a man through the streets of Paris to Venice, hired a detective to spy on herself before providing a report of her day, and asked blind people to tell her about the final image they remember. In doing so, she has orchestrated small moments of life, establishing a game, then setting its rules for herself and for others.
Dana Lixenberg, born in 1964 in The Netherlands, has been nominated for her publication Imperial Courts. In 1992, Dana Lixenberg travelled to South Central Los Angeles for a magazine story on the riots that erupted following the verdict in the Rodney King trial.
What she encountered inspired her to revisit the area, and led her to the community of the Imperial Courts housing project in Watts. Returning countless times over the following twenty-two years, Lixenberg gradually created a collaborative portrait of the changing face of this community.
Over the years, some in the community were killed, while others disappeared or went to jail, and others, once children in early photographs, grew up and had children of their own. In this way, Imperial Courts constitutes a complex and evocative record of the passage of time in an underserved community.
Awoiska van der Molen, born in 1972 in The Netherlands, has been nominated for her exhibition Blanco at Foam Fotografie Museum, Amsterdam. Van der Molen creates black and white, abstracted images that revitalise the genre of landscape photography. Spending long periods of time in solitude and silence in foreign landscapes, from Japan to Norway to Crete, she explores the identity of the place, allowing it to impress upon her its specific emotional and physical qualities and her personal experience within it.
With this intuitive approach van der Molen aims to find a pure form of representing her surroundings, by focusing on the essential elements in and around her. Her work questions how natural and manmade environments are commonly represented and interacted with.
Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs, both born in 1979 in Switzerland, have been nominated for their exhibition EURASIA at Fotomuseum Winterthur. EURASIA playfully draws on the iconography of the road trip constructing experiences drawn from memory and imagination. Onorato and Krebs’ journey begins in Switzerland, continues through the Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, and ends in Mongolia.
Throughout their travels the duo encountered landscapes and people in a state of ongoing transition from ancient traditions and post-Communist structures to modernity and the formation of an independent identity.
Using a mix of analogue media and techniques including 16mm films, large-format plate cameras and installation-based interventions, Onorato and Krebs compose a narrative that is as much fiction as documentation.
The jury for the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2017 is: Susan Bright, curator; Peter Hugo, artist; Karolina Lewandowska, curator of photography at the Centre Pompidou, Paris; and Anne-Marie Beckmann, director of the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation. Clare Grafik, head of exhibitions at The Photographers’ Gallery is the non-voting chair.
“This year’s shortlist proves once again the relevance of the Prize,” says Beckmann. “The artists offer diverse approaches, exploring the medium in its materiality and special relationship to time and transience.”
Works by the shortlisted photographers will be exhibited at The Photographers’ Gallery from 3 March until 11 June 2017 and subsequently presented at the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt from 29 June until 17 September 2016. For more, go here.