Deutsche Borse Photography Foundation Prize 2019 – Photographer’s Gallery

This annual award was established by the Photographer’s Gallery in 1996 and features the work of four photographers who are deemed to have made a significant contribution to photography in Europe over the last 12 months. The four artists shortlisted this year are Laia Abril, Susan Meiselas, Arwed Messmer and Mark Ruwedel.

On Abortion by Spanish photographer Laia Abril was a powerful and haunting piece of work looking at the methods used to terminate unwanted pregnancies and the impact on women of countries where abortion is illegal. Several of the images were black and white portraits with accompanying text which detailed the experiences of women who had obtained an illegal abortion and most shocking was a series of nine blurred portraits which were pictures of women who had died as a result of complications following an illegal abortion or the delay in obtaining a legal termintion. Overall I thought that this was an uncomfortable and thought provoking piece of work.

Susan Meiselas work Mediations was exhibited at the Je de Paume in Paris last year and the work featured at the Photographer’s Gallery was focused on her on-going project aka Kurdistan. The work is about Kurdistan, or more accurately the people who identify as Kurdish, and the attempts by the governments of Iran, Iraq and Turkey to suppress and eradicate Kurdish nationalism. Meiselas developed an interest in Kurdistan when she was asked to photograph the aftermath of the systematic destruction of Kurdish villages by Saddam Hussein’s government in 1991. Meiselas has continued to photograph in region since then and has also sought out and copied images of Kurdish people from the arly 20th Century, partly as a means of finding out more about Kurdish society and partly to preseve its history. This featured some challenging images but like Laia Abril’s work was thought provoking and informative.

Arwed Messmer work RAF – No Evidence/Kein Beweis was exhibited in Mannheim in late 2017. The work is an assembly of images originally used during the investigation into the activities of the Red Army Faction and Baader-Meinhof gang in the 1970s and there is a large print of police recording the death of the sudent Benno Ohnesorg during a visit of the Shah of Iran in June 1967, one of the events that prompted the formation of the Red Army Faction. Messemer’s work examines whether images originally used for a criminal investigation can now be used artistically, what ethical and moral decisions that involves and how presenting them in an artistic context alters our view of their historical context. I found this work interesting but more from an historical persepective rather than a photographic point of view as I had a vague memory of these events from the 1970s but did not know about the supposed co-ordinated suicides of five members of the RAF when they were being held in a high security prison.

The fourth photographer short-listed is Mark Ruwedel for his work Artist and Society: Mark Ruwedel which was exhibited at Tate Modern between February and December last year. The work is a collection of North American landscape images and examines how past events have been inscribed on the landscape. Of the four works exhibited I found this the least engaging as I did not feel the narrative was as strong as in the other works.

This was the first time I had visited the Photographer’s Gallery and I was gald that I took the advice to get there early as the galleries themselves are quite small and I think it would be difficult to view the works properly when the gallery became busier.

Sources

Thephotographersgalleryorguk. 2018. The Photographers’ Gallery. [Online]. [17 March 2019]. Available from: https://thephotographersgallery.org.uk/content/press-release-deutsche-borse-photography-foundation-prize-2019-shortlist-announcement

Hatje cantz publishers. 2019. Hatjecantzde. [Online]. [17 March 2019]. Available from: http://www.hatjecantz.de/arwed-messmer-7137-1.html

Goseeartnet. 2018. Go See Art. [Online]. [17 March 2019]. Available from: https://goseeart.net/2018/03/12/mark-ruwedels-work-shows-how-geological-historical-and-political-events-have-left-their-mark-on-the-landscape/

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