The 2019 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize goes on show

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Now in its 22nd year, the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize is awarded each year to image-makers who’ve made the biggest contribution to the medium in the previous 12 months in Europe. This year the shortlisted artists are: Laia Abril, for her publication On Abortion; Susan Meiselas, for the retrospective exhibition Mediations; Arwed Messmer, for his exhibition RAF – No Evidence / Kein Beweis; and Mark Ruwedel, for the exhibition Artist and Society: Mark Ruwedel. The exhibition opens at The Photographers’ Gallery on 08 March, and the winner of the £30,000 prize will be announced on 16 May 2019.

Published by Dewi Lewis in November 2017, Abril’s book On Abortion has already won wide acclaim, including being shortlisted for the Paris Photo/Aperture Foundation Photobook of the Year. The book collates visual, audio, and textual evidence around abortion, especially around illegal abortions and the risks that they pose to women. Although abortion can now be performed safely, social stigma and legal restrictions mean that many are still forced to resort to risky procedures, which result in approximately 47,000 deaths per year. On Abortion is Chapter One in a long-term project titled A History of Misogyny by Abril, who was born in Spain in 1986.

Illegal Instrument Kit, 2018 © Laia Abril, 2018

Magnum Photos member Susan Meiselas, who was born in the USA in 1948, showed her retrospective Mediations at the Jeu de Paume, Paris from 06 February-30 May 2018. The most comprehensive survey of her work to have been shown in Europe, Mediations collected together images shot from the 1970s-the present day. Meiselas is celebrated for her coverage of conflict zones in Central America from 1978-83, particularly her images of the Nicaraguan revolution, but also adopts other strategies and approaches, including working collaboratively with her subjects, and using audio and film.

Arwed Messmer was born in Germany in 1964 and has been nominated for RAF – No Evidence/Kein Beweis, which was shown at ZEPHYR|Raum für Fotografie, Mannheim from 09 September – 05 November, 2017. The exhibition charts the history of Germany’s Red Army Faction – aka the Baader-Meinhof Group – drawing on police images held in various state archives to trace its trajectory from student protests in 1968 to kidnapping and murdering German industrialist Hanns Martin Schleyer in 1977.

Ruwedel, who was born in 1955 in the USA, is nominated for Artist and Society: Mark Ruwedel, shown from 16 February – 16 December 2018 at Tate Modern, London. Including images shot in North America from 1995-2012, the exhibition merged documentary and conceptual approaches to photography, to show how geological, historical, and political events mark the landscape. Using historical photographic processes, but also inspired by 1960s and 70s conceptual art, Ruwedel often repeatedly photographs the same subject matter, and sees hand-made artists’ books as a central strand in his approach.

RAF No Evidence/Kein Beweis, 2017 © Arwed Messmer: research, concept and editing; source: Berlin Police Historical Collection, 2018

The jury for the 2019 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2019 jury was: Sunil Gupta, artist, writer, activist and curator; Diane Dufour, director of Le Bal, Paris; Felix Hoffmann, chief curator at C/O Berlin; and Anne-Marie Beckmann, director, Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation, Frankfurt. Brett Rogers, director of The Photographers’ Gallery, London, was the non-voting chair.

“This year’s shortlist refers in an impressive way to the diversity of the medium of photography as an artistic form of expression as well as to its relevance in today’s world,” stated Beckmann. “The nominated projects include classic black-and-white photographs, archive-based positions as well as reflecting highly topical issues alongside strategies for understanding the past.”

“Each year the artists selected for the prize are those perceived to uniquely address and expand the fluency and capabilities of the medium,” says Brett Rogers. “The 2019 shortlist continues this legacy, exemplifying the myriad ways that photographic images engage with the world around us. Whether drawing on documentary or conceptual approaches to the medium (Ruwedel, Meiselas, Abril) or by appropriating archival materials (Messmer), all four artists show a serious level of personal engagement and an undiluted awareness of, and reference to, past and present history.”

Antelope Valley 1438, 2008 © Mark Ruwedel, 2018

The shortlisted projects will go on show at The Photographers’ Gallery from 08 March – 02 June 2019, before touring to Deutsche Börse’s headquarters in Eschborn/Frankfurt. Deutsche Börse, which is the ninth-biggest stock exchange, started sponsoring this photography prize in 2005, taking over from Citigroup. Deutsche Börse started its collection of contemporary photography in 1999, and set up the non-profit Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation in 2015.

The Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2018 was won by Luke Willis Thompson with his film installation Autoportrait; previous winners include Dana Lixenberg, Trevor Paglen, Paul Graham, Juergen Teller, Rineke Dijkstra, Richard Billingham, John Stezaker and Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin.

The shortlisted projects will go on show at The Photographers’ Gallery from 08 March – 02 June 2019, before touring to Deutsche Börse’s headquarters in Eschborn/Frankfurt.

Magdalena, 32, Poland, 2018 © Laia Abril, 2018
Dee and Lisa on Mott Street, Little Italy, New York, 1976 © Susan Meiselas, 2018
RAF No Evidence/Kein Beweis, 2017 © Arwed Messmer: research, concept and editing; source: German Federal Archives, 2018
Columbia & Western #8, 1999 © Mark Ruwedel, 2018
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