Muse (Film Portrait Collage) XVIII, 2012. Image © John Stezaker, courtesy of the artist and The Approach, London
John Stezaker has scooped the annual Deutsche Borse Photography Prize, which was announced this evening at The Photographers' Gallery by Juergen Teller. "John Stezaker has been around for a good while, doggedly pursuing a particular idea and doing it very well," Martin Parr, a member of the jury, told BJP earlier this year. "He had a great show at the Whitechapel. I like the fact that he has one basic concept, and has explored it over the years, and done so very effectively."
Stezaker works with found images, cutting them up and putting them together into montages that take on sometimes sinister new tones. "For me there's a naturally subversive power in the images and the image in our collective cultural subconscious," he told BJP in an interview published online last year. "There's so much imagery around, but it's always tied to narrative, pre-eminently in cinema, where there is no way we can approach the image any longer without it being tied to the speech, the auditory. Silent movies are a last real moment for the cinema as image that's consigned to an unconsciousness – the shots are shown so quickly, at a 24th of a second, that we can't consciously retain them.
"And all the multimedia that's around now – to me that's montage. Everything is montage, we live within a montage, and to me that's terrifying. A lot of people have declared this – from Lefevre to Baudrillard – this kind of dematerialisation of our experience. We're all in a sea of that communication. I'm a Luddite, really, trying to live out the rest of my life within a mechanical pathway."
Stezaker was nominated for his solo show at the Whitechapel Gallery, London (29 January – 18 March, 2011) and wins £30,000 for the prize, which is awarded to "a living photographer, of any nationality, for a specific body of work in an exhibition or publication format, which has significantly contributed to the medium of photography in Europe between 01 October 2010 and 30 September 2011".
The other shortlisted photographers were: South African photographer Pieter Hugo, who was nominated for the publication Permanent Error, published by Prestel in 2011; Japanese photographer Rinko Kawauchi, nominated for her publication Illuminance, published by Editions Xavier Barral in 2011; and American photographer Christopher Williams, nominated for his exhibition Kapitalistischer Realismus at Dum umeni Ceske Budejovice, Budweis, Czech Republic (05 May - 12 June, 2011).
The Deutsche Borse longlist was compiled by 100 nominators across Europe, but the final decision was down to a panel of four judges: Francois Hebel, director of Les Rencontres d'Arles; Martin Parr, photographer; Beatrix Ruf, director/curator of the Kunsthalle Zurich; and Anne-Marie Beckmann, curator, Art Collection Deutsche Borse, Germany. Brett Rogers, director of The Photographers' Gallery, was the non-voting chair.
This year's shortlist was remarkable for its sheer variety, ranging from Pieter Hugo's documentary work to Stezaker's conceptual take on the medium. "I believe the shortlist reflects what's going on today in photography," Hebel told BJP earlier this year, in an article published in Issue 2 of our iPhone app. "I believe there has been a sort of salutary deliverance in photography. Not too long ago, if your images weren't in black-and-white, you weren't taken seriously.
"Fifteen years ago, when art galleries started to take photography seriously, they introduced new standards and photography was pretty much classed into two camps – German-style photography and Nan Goldin-style trash [aesthetic]. Today, finally, we welcome photography in all its styles and approaches. These approaches are different from one another and, as a result, it makes it difficult to compare them against each other. But it goes to show that photography is a wider genre than people believe, and the jury was unanimous in its readiness to welcome all these different approaches."
The Deutsche Borse Photography Prize 2012 is on show at The Photographers' Gallery until 09 September, then moves to the Deutsche Borse headquarters in Frankfurt from 14 September to 25 October, and to C/O Berlin Forum from 03 November until 13 January 2013. Rinko Kawauchi is taking part in a number of events at The Photographers' Gallery on 07-08 September, including: an In Conversation talk with Ivan Vartanian at 7pm on 07 September; a book signing at 5pm on 07 September; and book-making performances from 11am-2pm and from 3pm-6pm on 08 September, in which she will create photographic scrolls inspired by traditional Japanese manuscripts.
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