A vision of urban decay in Johannesburg wins the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2015

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse were awarded the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2015 at The Photographers’ Gallery this evening, Thursday 28 May 2015.

The £30,000 award was presented by previous prize winners Oliver Chanarin on behalf of the artist duo Broomberg & Chanarin.

Subotzky and Waterhouse won for their publication Ponte City (Steidl, 2014), which depicts a 54-floor apartment block in Johannesburg, built in 1976 for a white elite under apartheid rule.

After the end of Apartheid, it became a refuge for black newcomers to the city and immigrants from all over Africa, and it came to be seen as the prime symbol of urban decay in the city – the epicentre of crime, prostitution and drug dealing.

Subotzky and Waterhouse began their project in 2007 after a failed regeneration project. Working with remaining residents and using photographs, architectural plans, archival and historical material, they created an intimate social portrait of the building’s community of residents. An accompanying sequence of seventeen booklets containing essays and personal stories complete the visual and spatial narrative of this Johannesburg landmark.

Brett Rogers, non-voting Chair of the Jury and Director of The Photographers’ Gallery said: “The jury praised Subotzky and Waterhouse for introducing new ways of photographic storytelling and presentation in book form. They have drawn together a rich and diverse array of archival and documentary approaches, to reveal, layer by layer, the complex stories concealed within one of Johannesburg’s most iconic buildings, Ponte City.

“This long-term, creatively ambitious project, serves as a compelling metaphor for South African society as it transitioned from Apartheid to post-Apartheid era and importantly explores the wider issues relating to the global migration of peoples today.

Andreas Preuss, Deputy CEO of Deutsche Börse AG said: “The cooperation between The Photographers’ Gallery and Deutsche Börse since 2005 has proven very successful – the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize is a prestigious award, well- established and widely recognised. I’m happy to announce that Deutsche Börse will continue to support this award also for the next three years.”

Tom Seymour

Tom Seymour is an Associate Editor at The Art Newspaper and an Associate Lecturer at London College of Communication. His words have been published in The Guardian, The Observer, The New York Times, Financial Times, Wallpaper* and The Telegraph. He has won Writer of the Year and Specialist Writer of the year on three separate occassions at the PPA Awards for his work with The Royal Photographic Society.