Who Will Win This Year's Deutsche Borse Photography Prize?

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 34 months ago
Who Will Win This Year's Deutsche Borse Photography Prize? ★★★☆☆ 3
Subotzky and Waterhouse's project is solely focussed on a 54 storey tower in South Africa. Copyright Mikhael Subotzky / Patrick Waterhouse.
Subotzky and Waterhouse's project is solely focussed on a 54 storey tower in South Africa. Copyright Mikhael Subotzky / Patrick Waterhouse.
Zanele Muholi's photographs of the LGBTI community are powerful. Copyright Zanele Muholi.
Zanele Muholi's photographs of the LGBTI community are powerful. Copyright Zanele Muholi.
Viviane Sassen is our pick for the prize, with her creative capturing of shadows. Copyright Viviane Sassen.
Viviane Sassen is our pick for the prize, with her creative capturing of shadows. Copyright Viviane Sassen.
This family portrait was taken in the USSR when non-state sanctioned photographs were illegal. Copyright MAMM, Moscow / Nikolai Bakharev,
This family portrait was taken in the USSR when non-state sanctioned photographs were illegal. Copyright MAMM, Moscow / Nikolai Bakharev,

Londonist Rating: ★★★☆☆

The Deutsche Börse photography prize is an exhibition we always look forward to; it recognises the diversity in photography and has had some great past winners in John Stezaker, and last year, the excellent Richard Mosse. The 2015 show features four contrasting portfolios but, unusually for the competition, there's no clear 'people's favourite' this time around.

Nikolai Bakharev's photographs of families out and around public beaches may seem fairly ordinary, but they take on a greater significance knowing that at this time in the USSR intimate snaps like this were forbidden. This makes the narrative historically relevant, but it's a shame the actual works don't measure up and lack some of the tension we'd expect.

Zanele Muholi has also taken on a serious political issue, with portraits of the LGBT community in South Africa. The images themselves are striking, and made all the more insightful as they are accompanied by a wall filled with hateful messages addressed to members of this community. It's easily the most powerful display of the four, though more powerful than impressive.

The pairing of Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse sticks with South Africa, but they have a narrower focus. A 54-storey high-rise was designed for the middle class during apartheid, but became inhabited by the poor and immigrants in the 1990s. It's now being redeveloped and the duo have documented almost every angle of the building. Though it's an interesting concept, the works never hang together as a coherent narrative and it's the weakest selection in the show.

Viviane Sassen stays away from the meatier, political issues and decides to focus on shadows and what they conceal within them, including the darkness of a grave contrasting with the red earth around it, and a toddler walking completely within its mother's shadow. There's a great sense of exploration and enjoyment evident in Sassen's work, and this purist approach to photography — plus her recent ICA show — is the reason we think she deserves to win.

This year is one of the weaker showings for the prize, and we're grateful that in Sassen there's at least one photographer in the competition who we really liked. She won't, however, be everyone's cup of tea.

The Deutsche Börse 2015 Photography Prize is on at The Photographer's Gallery, 16-18 Ramillies St, W1F 7LW until 7 June 2015. Entrance is free. Also on at The Photographers' Gallery are exhibitions on the history of China told through photobooks and the stark and beautiful photographs of the edge of Eastern Europe by Tamas Deszo.

Fans of photography should also check out this internet archive of British photography and the photography led Watershed exhibition in Bexley.

For more great art to see, visit our top 10 openings and most talked about art exhibitions in April.

Last Updated 17 April 2015