Luke Willis Thompson wins the Deutsche Börse

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In July 2016, Diamond Reynolds’ partner was shot dead by a police officer during a traffic-stop in Minnesota. Reynolds used Facebook Live to broadcast the moments after the shooting, creating a video that became widely circulated, amassing over six million views, and which was also played to a jury as evidence in June 2017 – in a court case which saw the officer acquitted of all charges.

In November 2016, Thompson invited Reynolds to collaborate on a project that would portray her in a different way to the original, publicly-consumed image. The resulting 35mm film, autoportrait, shows Reynolds apparently deep in thought and seemingly unaware of the camera, and is presented as a large-scale installation without a soundtrack. First exhibited in London’s Chisenhale Gallery in 2017, it’s been picked out of the winner of the £30,000 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2018, over work by three other shortlisted artists – Mathieu Asselin, Rafal Milach, and Batia Suter.

Luke Willis Thompson, autoportrait, 2017. Installation view, Chisenhale Gallery 2017. Commissioned by Chisenhale Gallery and produced in partnership with Create. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Nagel Draxler, Berlin/Cologne, photo Andy Keate

The Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize rewards a living photographer of any nationality for a specific body of work exhibited or published in Europe in the preceding year. The jury this year comprised: Anne-Marie Beckmann, director, Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation; Duncan Forbes, curator and visiting research Fellow at Westminster University; Gordon MacDonald, artist, curator and editor; and Penelope Umbrico, artist. Brett Rogers, director of The Photographers’ Gallery, was the non-voting chair.

“We congratulate the winner of the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation prize 2018, Luke Willis Thompson,” says Beckmann. “His silent filmic study autoportrait is a significant contribution to contemporary photography, reflecting on the most relevant issue of self-representation and the ownership of image in todays’ complex media world.”

“The judging session to decide the 2018 winner encompassed lengthy and complex discussions around the role and form of photography today, its almost unrivalled power as a social, political and creative force, and its unique ability to bring to public focus some of the most urgent and relevant issues of today,” added Rogers.

“Within that context, the panel decided to award the 2018 prize to Luke. His singular and uncompromising portrait, made in collaboration with its subject, Diamond Reynolds, was conceived as a way to return agency to the protagonist.

“As a contender for a prize focused on photography, the jury felt autoportrait imbued the moving image format with the singular and almost obsessional quality of a still photograph, drawing attention to its materiality, and challenging viewers to consider the personal stakes of representation in an environment at once intimate and collective.

“Ultimately though, the project was felt to invite a timely and prescient conversation around the nature of image control, authorship and distribution in a way that expands rather than shuts down the debate.”

Born in New Zealand in 1988, Thompson attended the Elam School of Fine Arts University in Auckland and the Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main. His works have been included in exhibitions such as the São Paulo Biennale; the Montréal Biennale; the Asia Pacific Triennial, Queensland; and the New Museum Triennial, New York, and he has also been nominated for the 2018 Turner Prize.

David Baker at his borther Terry’s grave, Edgemont Cemetery, West Anniston, Alabama, 2012 © Mathieu Asselin. Courtesy of the artist

Mathieu Asselin was nominated for the series Monsanto: A Photographic Investigation, a densely-researched project on the global biotechnology corporation. A book of the project was published last year by Actes Sud, and won the First Book of the Year in the Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation Photobook Awards 2017; the work was also exhibited at Les Rencontres d’Arles last summer.

Rafal Milach was nominated for his exhibition Refusal, which was shown from 12 May–18 June 2017 at the Atlas Sztuki Gallery in Lodz, Poland. Milach brought together images from many different sources for his project, to demonstrate systems of governmental control and ideological manipulations of belief and consciousness in post-Soviet countries such as Belarus, Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Poland.

Batia Suter was nominated for her publication Parallel Encyclopedia #2 (Roma, 2016), which continues a project started in her 2007 book Parallel Encyclopedia. A compilation of roughly 1000 images which Suter found in various publications, the book is described by The Photographers’ Gallery “an image-led sequence of subjective associations offering visual dialogues and new categorisations that demonstrate how our understanding of the physical world and its history, as well as different cultures and places are affected by their context of representation”.

Khyrdalan, Azerbaijan, 2016 © Rafal MIlach
Courtesy of the artist

All four projects are on show at The Photographers’ Gallery, where they will remain until 03 June before moving to the MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt from 22 June until 09 September 2018, as part of the photo triennial RAY 2018. The Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2018 catalogue features essays by Anne- Marie Beckmann, Adam Broomberg, Diane Dufour (director of Le Bal, Paris), Brett Rogers, Christina Sharpe (author of In the Wake: On Blackness and Being) and Michael Saur, and is edited by TPG curator Anna Dannemann.

The Photographers’ Gallery set up this annual award in 1997, and has run it in partnership with the Deutsche Börse Group since 2005 (since 2016, it has been awarded with the non-profit Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation). Previous winners include Dana Lixenberg, Trevor Paglen, Paul Graham, Juergen Teller, Rineke Dijkstra, Richard Billingham, John Stezaker, and Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin.

The Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2018 is on show at The Photographers’ Gallery until 03 June It then moves to the MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt from 22 June-09 September, as part of the photo triennial RAY 2018

Parallel Encyclopedia #2, 2016 © Batia Suter Courtesy of the artist
Diane Smyth

Diane Smyth is a freelance journalist who contributes to publications such as The Guardian, The Observer, The FT Weekend Magazine, Creative Review, The Calvert Journal, Aperture, FOAM, IMA, Aesthetica and Apollo Magazine. Prior to going freelance, she wrote and edited at BJP for 15 years. She has also curated exhibitions for institutions such as The Photographers Gallery and Lianzhou Foto Festival. You can follow her on instagram @dismy