Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2016 shortlist announced

Identity, migration, surveillance and loss are the key themes of the 2016 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize, which encompasses projects on the surveillance state and drone warfare to the women that took part in the Arab Spring.

The shortlisted artists have been nominated for the following projects:

Laura El-Tantawy, born in 1980, and who identifies as British-Egyptian, was nominated for her self-published photobook In the Shadow of the Pyramids (2015).

In images that span from 2005 to 2014, this project depicts the atmosphere and rising tensions in Cairo in the events leading to and during the January revolution in Tahrir Square between 2011 and 2013.

Women of Tahrir June 28, 2013 Cairo, Egypt
Women of Tahrir, June 28, 2013, Cairo, Egypt © Laura El-Tantawy

El-Tantawy grew up between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the US. In the Shadow of the Pyramids explores parallel narratives of her own family’s history with the search for identity of a troubled nation. She combines old family photographs and her own witness accounts with portraits of protestors and streets scenes that expresses the violence and euphoria of the crowds.

Erik Kessels, born in 1966 in The Netherlands, was nominated for his exhibition Unfinished Father at Fotografia Europea, Reggio Emilia, Italy, which exhibited between 15 May and 31 July 2015.

In Unfinished Father, Kessels reflects upon the fragmented realities of loss, memory and a life come undone as a result of his father’s debilitating stroke. Kessels uses his father’s unfinished restoration project of an old Fiat 500 as a representation of his current condition. He brings pieces of the unassembled body of the Topolino car into the exhibition space and presents it alongside photographs of car parts and images that were taken by his father.

Unfinished Father, 2015 © Erik Kessels

Trevor Paglen, born in 1974 in the USA, was nominated for his exhibition The Octopus at Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, Germany, on display from 20 June to 30 August 2015.

Paglen’s project aims to represent complex topics like mass surveillance, data collection, classified satellite and drone activities and the systems of power connected to them. Paglen’s installation comprise images of restricted military and government areas, skylines showing the flight tracks of passing drones, sculptural elements and research assembled in collaboration with scientist, amateur astronomers and human rights activists. Through his work, Paglen demonstrates that secrets cannot be hidden from view, but that their traces and structures are visible evidence in the landscape.

They Watch the Moon, 2010 © Trevor Paglen

Tobias Zielony, born in 1973 in Germany, was nominated for The Citizen, exhibited as part of the German Pavilion presentation at the 56th Biennale of Arts, Venice, Italy from 9 May to 22 November 2015.

Mostly taken in Berlin and Hamburg Zielony’s photographs portray the lives and circumstances of African refugee activists living in Europe. Fleeing violence in their home countries, many arrive to the West to find themselves living as outsiders in refugee-camps without legal representation or work permits.

Presented alongside the images are first person accounts, interviews and narratives published by Zielony in African newspapers and magazines and reporting on the immigrants’ experiences and journeys.

The Citizen, 2015 © Tobias Zielony

The winner will be announced at a special award ceremony in 2016 during the exhibition run.The £30,000 prize rewards a living photographer, of any nationality, for a specific body of work in an exhibition or publication format, which is felt to have significantly contributed to photography in Europe between 1 October 2014 and 30 September 2015

The members of the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2016 jury are: David Drake, Director Ffotogallery, Cardiff; Alfredo Jaar, Artist; Wim van Sinderen, Senior Curator at The Hague Museum of Photography; Anne-Marie Beckmann, Curator, Art Collection Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation and Brett Rogers, Director of The Photographers’ Gallery, as the non-voting chair.

Brett Rogers, Director of The Photographers’ Gallery, and non-voting Chair of the Jury said: “The work of this year’s four nominees address some of the most urgent political and social issues of our time – from Laura El Tantawy’s moving account of the Arab Spring to Tobias Zielony’s repositioning of the European refugee crisis and Trevor Paglen’s exploration of the growing impact of military surveillance on our lives.

“Eric Kessel’s Unfinished Father provides a more personal narrative which examines the fragmentation of family roles and relationships in the face of a loved one’s debilitating illness. All these subjects are of great consequence and relevance today – and one which photography, as a multifarious and accessible medium, is uniquely suited to explore.”

Works by the shortlisted photographers will be exhibited at The Photographers’ Gallery from 16 April until 26 June 2016 and subsequently presented at the Deutsche Börse headquarters in Frankfurt/Eschborn.

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.