Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2015

The winners of the annual Deutsche Börse Photography Prize were announced on 28 May 2015: Mikhael Subotzky & Patrick Waterhouse. Other photographers, who were shortlisted for this year’s prize, were: Nikolai Bakharev, Zanele Muholi and Viviane Sassen.

Works by the shortlisted photographers were exhibited at The Photographers’ Gallery from 17 April until 7 June 2015 and subsequently presented at the Museum für Moderne Kunst (Museum for Modern Art) in Frankfurt from 20 June until 20 September. Furthermore, the show was part of RAY Fotografieprojekte Frankfurt/Rhein Main 2015.

The Jury

The members of the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2015 jury are: Chris Boot, Executive Director, Aperture Foundation; Rineke Dijkstra, artist; Peter Gorschlüter, Deputy Director, MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst and Anne Marie Beckmann, Curator, Art Collection Deutsche Börse. Brett Rogers, Director of The Photographers’ Gallery, is the non-voting Chair.

The Shortlist

Nikolai Bakharev, Ausstellungsreihe „Relation“, №96. 1998-1999, © Nikolai Bakharev

Nikolai Bakharev

(b. 1946, Russia) for his exhibition at the 55th Biennale of Art in Venice (1 June – 24 November 2013). Bakharev trained as a mechanic before working as a Communal Services Factory photographer in the 1960s. Bakharev’s portraits of bathers on Russian public beaches blur the boundaries between the public and private and set up a tension between composed and spontaneous groupings. They were predominantly taken during the 1980s when the taking and circulation of photographs containing nudity was strictly forbidden. Though the families and couples are wearing bathing suits and seem to be willingly posing, his shots feel furtive, with an undercurrent of subterfuge and eroticism despite the oblique propriety presented.

Zanele Muholi, Ausstellungsreihe „Faces and Phases“, Tumi Mkhuma Yeoville Johannesburg, 2007, © Zanele Muholi. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

Zanele Muholi

(b. 1972, South Africa) for her publication Faces and Phases 2006 – 2014 (Steidl, 2014). A self-titled “visual activist”, Zanele Muholi’s black and white portraits offer an insight into black LGBTI identity and politics in post-apartheid South Africa. Emphasising a conceptual and personal approach, the uncompromising images and accompanying first-person testimonies reflect the impact of homophobia, discrimination and violence, most notably the “curative rape” of black gay women, which often results in murder. Muholi’s archive of photographs forms an important force in female gay activism.

Viviane Sassen, Umbra, © Viviane Sassen

Viviane Sassen

(b. 1972, Netherlands) for her exhibition Umbra at Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam (8 March – 1 June 2014), encompassing abstract photography, drawings, light installations accompanied by specially commissioned poems from artist and poet, Maria Barnas. Sassen’s distinctive and experimental approach: image foregrounds in vivid colour alongside stark contrasts of light and shade in sculptural compositions where form and content verge on abstraction. In Umbra, Latin for shadow, the characteristic qualities of Sassen’s work are shown: vibrant colour, deep shadows, here support darker sensibilities, informed by the Jungian notion of the “shadow self”, which taps into personal fear, desire and shame as well as expressing more abstract concepts of the unknown, time and death.

Mikhael Subotzky und Patrick Waterhouse, Ponte City from Yeoville Ridge, 2008, © Mikhael Subotzky und Patrick Waterhouse

Mikhael Subotzky

(b. 1981, South Africa) and Patrick Waterhouse (b. 1981, UK) for their publication Ponte City (Steidl, 2014). The 54-floor apartment block in Johannesburg was built in 1975 for white “sophisticates” under the apartheid and white supremacy regime. During the political transition in the 1990s, it became a refuge for black newcomers and immigrants from all over Africa before decline and neglect led to it being positioned as the prime symbol of urban decay in the city and the epicentre of crime, prostitution and drug dealing. Subotzky and Waterhouse began their project in 2007 working with the remaining residents, after a regeneration project failed. They have created an intimate and deeply evocative social portrait of a culture, building and its community of residents through photographs, architectural plans, and other archival and historical material. An additional sequence of seventeen booklets containing essays and personal stories complete the visual and spatial narrative of this Johannesburg landmark.