Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2019
The four finalists in 2019 were Laia Abril, Susan Meiselas, Arwed Messmer and Mark Ruwedel. Their projects explore state and gender politics, social injustice and human rights issues, with artistic strategies ranging from visual research and conceptual approaches to image making. The £30,000 award was presented to Susan Meiselas on 16 May 2019 in London for her exhibition "Mediations" at the Jeu de Paume in Paris. The jury recognized her remarkable contribution to socially engaged photography, which is characterised by her personal commitment and particularly reflected in her documentation of individual and historical events.
The projects for which the artists were nominated were shown at The Photographers' Gallery and were presented at the Deutsche Börse headquarters in Eschborn/Frankfurt from 14 June to 23 August.
Sunil Gupta, artist, writer, activist and curator; Diane Dufour, Director of Le Bal, Paris; Felix Hoffmann, Chief Curator at C/O Berlin; Anne-Marie Beckmann, Director, Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation, Frankfurt and Brett Rogers, Director, The Photographers' Gallery, London, as the non-voting chair
Laia Abril (b. 1986, Spain) has been nominated for the publication On Abortion (Dewi Lewis Publishing, November 2017).
On Abortion is a visual research project that draws on the past, present and current history of abortion to highlight the continuing erosion of women's reproductive rights. For centuries, people have searched for ways to terminate unsafe or unwanted pregnancies. Despite the fact that today safe and efficient means of abortion exist, many women are still forced to resort to ancient, illegal or risky home methods resulting in approximately 47,000 deaths due to failed procedures each year. In this meticulously researched project, Abril documents the physical and psychological dangers caused by the continued lack of legal, safe and free access to abortion. Her collection of visual, audio and textual evidence graphically represents the consequences of unsafe procedures. It raises complex questions around the ethics and morality involved in any consideration of this subject, while exposing the myriad social triggers, stigmas and taboos that still persist around abortion and female health. On Abortion is the first chapter of Abril's long-term project, A History of Misogyny.
Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, USA) has been nominated for the exhibition Mediations (Jeu de Paume, Paris, 6 February - 30 May 2018)
Susan Meiselas is a leading documentary photographer, widely acknowledged for her work in conflict zones of Central America (1978 - 1983), and in particular for her powerful photographs of the Nicaraguan revolution. Favouring an immersive approach, she often collaborates with her subjects over long periods of time, and has focused on a wide range of challenging issues from ethnic and religious conflicts, human rights issues and the sex industry. Meiselas often adopts different methodologies in her process, incorporating photographic essays, installations, audio, film and the printed page. Mediations is the most comprehensive European retrospective of Meseilas' work, bringing together series' from the 1970s to the present day. The exhibition reveals her unique approach as an artist who has constantly questioned the status of the image in relation to the context in which it appears.
Arwed Messmer (b. 1964, Germany) has been nominated for his exhibition RAF – No Evidence / Kein Beweis (ZEPHYR|Raum für Fotografie, Mannheim, 9 September - 5 November 2017)
This comprehensive body of work reflects on the trajectory of the Red Army Faction (RAF). A far-left extremist organisation, it was formed in 1970 and engaged in a series of violent terrorist attacks in Germany over the course of three decades. Focusing on the period 1967 to 1977, Messmer set out to chart and consider the group's involvement in such events as the student protests of 1968 to the violent 'German Autumn' of 1977. The resulting project draws on a diversity of source materials from various state archives, including an extensive collection of investigative, forensic and documentary photographs ranging from the mundane to the surreal. By repurposing and recontextualising the tools and materials commonly used in police investigations and crime-scene reconstructions, Messmer's 'narrative' examines how images once used to collect evidence in criminal cases can now provide a different insight into our understanding of history.
Mark Ruwedel (b. 1955, USA) is nominated for the exhibition Artist and Society: Mark Ruwedel (16 Feb - 16 Dec 2018 at Tate Modern, London)
Having spent many years photographing across North America, Mark Ruwedel's work explores how geological, historical and political events leave their marks on the landscape. The works in this exhibition date between 1995 – 2012 and showcase his interest in the history of photography and conceptual art practices of the 1960s and 70s. Merging documentary and conceptual methods of image-making, often repeatedly photographing the same subject matter, Ruwedel also finds influence in land art echoed in his expansive images of abandoned railways, nuclear testing sites and empty desert homes. His work echoes historical photographic processes exemplified through his use of obsolete photographic papers, traditional darkroom techniques and application of handwritten captions. His interest in the craft of photographic printing and the photograph-as-object is further evidenced by his hand-made artist's books which are a central part of his practice.