Deana Lawson, Gilles Peress, Jo Ractliffe and Anastasia Samoylova are the finalists for the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2022

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Roadside stall on the way to Viana, 2007 from the series Terreno Ocupado © Jo Ractliffe, Courtesy of the artist

The four shortlisted artists were announced today, with the winner revealed next spring at The Photographers’ Gallery, London

It is the 26th year of the prestigious Deutsche Börse award, and the four finalists have been announced today, 18 November. The prize, which is renowned as one of the most important photography acknowledgements, foregrounds the “outstanding, innovative and thought-provoking work that pushes the boundaries of the medium”. The winner – to be announced at a special ceremony in May next year at The Photographers’ Gallery in London – will receive a grand prize of £30,000. The runners-up will each collect £5000 – an increase from the £3000 fund awarded in previous years.

Deana Lawson is shortlisted for her show, Centropy, at Kunsthalle Basel in 2020. The exhibition was composed of images taken between 2013 and 2020, as Lawson creates a portrait of the contemporary Black experience in the US and beyond. Her images are carefully staged, as she places her subjects in detailed, textured settings. Gem Fletcher writes that: “Lawson describes the pictures as capturing ‘Black innocence’ – everyday photos of Black people enjoying life, riding bikes, embracing their babies and hanging out. ‘Images free from the baggage of history and the violence done to our bodies and community’.” The exhibition, which followed a semi-fictional narrative, also included film, installation, holograms and crystal-encrusted mirrors.

Video club, Roque Santeiro market, 2007 from the series Terreno Ocupado © Jo Ractliffe, Courtesy of the artist
Whatever You Say, Say Nothing: from the chapter, Saturday © Gilles Peress, Courtesy of artist

Jo Ractliffe impressed the judges with her recent publication Photographs 1980s – now, printed by Steidl. Ractliffe has spent her life photographing her homeland of South Africa. This monograph gathers texts, early works and new images to unpack the country’s complex history over the past 40 years. Through “quiet poetics”, the photographer bears witness to the painful and violent strain of apartheid, as well as the aftermath of civil war in Angola. 

Gilles Peress’ nominated work is his publication Whatever You Say, Say Nothing, also published by Steidl. Set over 2000 pages and two volumes, with accompanying contextual material, the ‘documentary fiction’ is a complex narrative charting a devastating and crucial time in Northern Irish history. Born in France, Peress travelled to Northern Ireland in early 1970, at the age of 26, and photographed the violence following the reintroduction of internment, and the massacre on Bloody Sunday. He returned in the 1980s to “describe everything as a way of testing the limits of visual language to record and understand the intractable conflict”. The images are organised into 22 semi-fictional ‘days’ to emphasise the nauseatingly repetitive nature of conflict in history. 

Whatever You Say, Say Nothing: from the chapter, The Last Night © Gilles Peress, Courtesy of artist
Pink Sidewalk, 2017, from the series FloodZone © Anastasia Samoylova, Courtesy of artist
The Tea Room, 2018, from the series FloodZone © Anastasia Samoylova, Courtesy of artist

Finally, Anastasia Samoylova is shortlisted for her exhibition of FloodZone, which she showed earlier this year in Moscow at the Multimedia Art Museum. Since 2016 the artist has been based in Florida, a place that is the focus of her ongoing series charting the environmental impact of climate change on America’s coastal cities. As rising sea levels, storm surges and coastal erosion close in on a region that relies on its paradisal image, the photographer considers the “seductive and destructive dissonance”. 

This year’s judging panel comprises: artist Yto Barrada; Jessica Dimson, who is The New York Times’ deputy director of photography; Yasufumi Nakamori, Tate Modern’s international art (photography) senior curator; Anne-Marie Beckmann, director of the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation; and director of The Photographers’ Gallery, Brett Rogers OBE, as voting chair.

Chief, 2019 © Deana Lawson, Courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York; David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles

“The work of this year’s nominees encapsulate themes which reflect not only the current times we live in but the terrific weight and responsibility of history, and embrace two very different standpoints: that of a younger generation (Deana Lawson and Anastasia Samoylova) who have recently made a major impact within the photography world due to the distinctive ways in which they use the medium to interrogate and explore topical issues, alongside an older generation, Giles Peress and Jo Ractliffe, who demonstrate a long-term engagement with and commitment to both subject and medium (over 30-40 years),” Rogers says of the nominees. 

She adds: “Despite what might be conceived to be the harrowing thread which underlines the works (conflict in Northern Ireland, the position of the Black body in visual culture, the impact of climate change in Florida, or the trauma of post-apartheid Africa), each artist manages to propose moments of epiphany or revelation. Taken together, this year’s shortlist shows that even in the darkness of our current world, artists still find a way to reveal hidden truths and make us look afresh at the world – a testimony to photography’s ability to offer us invaluable ways to reconsider and review our perspectives.”

Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2022 exhibition will be on display at The Photographers’ Gallery from 25 March to 12 June 2022, with the winner announced on 12 May 2022 

Izabela Radwanska Zhang

Starting out as an intern back in 2016, Izabela Radwanska Zhang is now the Editorial Director of British Journal of Photography in print and online. Her words have appeared in Disegno and Press Association. Prior to this, she completed a MA in Magazine Journalism at City University, London, and most recently, a Postgrad Certificate in Graphic Design at London College of Communication.