Last year’s Deutsche prize was a high quality contest. Though we were happy with the popular John Stezaker winning, we would have been equally content with the political Pieter Hugo or the ethereal Rinko Kawauchi walking away with the award. So do this year’s contestants measure up and who will win out?
First up we have Mishka Henner who has combined the use of internet forums and Google street view to find photographs of roadside prostitutes in Southern Europe. The voyeuristic angle has been, arguably, done better by Jon Rafman’s 9 eyes of Google Street View and the photographs taken as ‘we’ pass by make this collection seem judgemental rather than observational, thereby interfering with its original message about lack of privacy in the technological age.
Chris Killip is the only photographer, in the traditional sense, in this competition and he has assembled a powerful selection of images of poverty in the industrial North in the 1980s as he highlights the tough lives that people led. One image that struck us was of an elderly man sitting on a wall with his legs hanging off the edge in a distinctively childlike pose, remarking on the belittling that this anonymous person has endured.
Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin present their highly politicised book War Primer 2, which overlays images to compare the second world war with modern conflicts. It’s controversial and powerful in parts, but is also hit and miss in its execution.
Our favourite series is Afronauts by Cristina De Middell. It recounts the frankly outlandish plan that a newly independent Zambia hatched to compete with USA and the (then) USSR in the space race. They had the ridiculously ambitious target of reaching Mars, before anyone had even set foot on the moon. Though it was always a pipe dream, the ambition and optimism is hard not to get caught up in.
Though we’d love De Middell to win, it’s Killip who is most deserving of the prize. Last year’s jury didn’t go for the obvious political story, let’s hope they stay strong once more and resist the draw of Broomberg and Chanarin.
This year’s exhibition is yet again another fascinating selection and once more stretches the definition of photography. Most visitors are likely to be captivated by at least one entry and will walk away with their own favourite.
The Deutsche Borse Photography Prize 2013 is on at The Photographers’ Gallery, 16-18 Ramillies Street, W1F 7LW until 30 June. Admission is free.