Every year the Deutsche Börse prize awards £30,000 to the European photographer it considers has contributed most to the medium, whether it be through publications or exhibitions. The prize leans towards narratives or deeper meanings, so no cute animal or scenic landscape pics here.
This year’s four finalists have some of their work on display at The Photographers’ Gallery ahead of the winner being announced towards the end of the exhibition. The four artists could not be more diverse.
Christopher Williams is obtuse to the point of being ridiculous. How his photographs relate to the cold war, as he claims, is beyond us and clearly also the gallery who’ve written that his work ‘defies an easy reading’.
More aesthetically pleasing is John Stezaker who’s been nominated for his excellent exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery last year. Stezaker’s playful approach to photo collage involves almost seamlessly blending two portraits or a portrait with a landscape. If the vox populi had a say in the vote, he’d be the clear winner.
Rinko Kawauchi’s work doesn’t hold together well, appearing to be a jumble of subjects that took her fancy but her mastery of capturing light, whether it be from the bottom of a swimming pool or the sparkle of a diamond, is breathtaking.
The final and most powerful entrant is Pieter Hugo who tells the story of an electronic waste dumping site in Ghana. Youngsters burn the waste to collect valuable metals but in the process are exposing themselves to toxins and carcinogens. Despite their predicament they pose proudly and confidently in Hugo’s work.
We think the emotional weight of Hugo’s work will win the prize, but our hope is that Kawauchi manages to mesmerise the judges.
Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2012 is on at The Photographers’ Gallery, 16-18 Ramillies Place, W1F 7LW until 9 September. Admission is free.