Deutsche Börse Photography Prize: Gripping Images of “Hidden Truths”

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Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2022
Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2022Photography by Anastasia Samoylova

Deana Lawson, Gilles Peress, Jo Ractliffe and Anastasia Samoylova are shortlisted for this year’s award, which explores photography’s ability to “reveal hidden truths and make us look afresh at the world.”

First established in 1996, the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize is one of photography’s most prestigious awards. For over 25 years, the annual event has shone a light on some of the most thought-provoking and revolutionary work in the medium and has included the likes of Susan Meiselas, Juergen Teller, and Rineke Dijkstra among its past winners. The four artists shortlisted for this year’s edition of the award are Deana Lawson, Gilles Peress, Jo Ractliffe and Anastasia Samoylova, and the winner of the $30,000 prize is set to be announced in May.

On view now at The Photographer’s Gallery in Soho, London, this year’s shortlist is in many ways reflective of the troubling times we are living in – portraying worlds of violence, struggle, and looming environmental disaster. Though, as gallery director Brett Rogers points out, glimmers of hope and humanity are to be found across the selection, which ultimately highlights photography’s ability to “reveal hidden truths and make us look afresh at the world.”

Deana Lawson’s exhibition Centropy – shown at Kunsthalle, Basel last year – is an uplifting outlier in the selection. Connecting to ideas of spirituality through staged portraits of contemporary Black life, the show encompassed large-scale photographs, holograms, 16mm films, a video, and several installations of small snapshot images. “I’m actually trying to imagine the mythic realm,” says the artist of her regal domestic scenes. “To use the person as a vehicle to represent an entity beyond what is actually present.”

Elsewhere, shortlisted photographers Gilles Peress and Jo Ractliffe respectively capture war-ravaged communities in 1970s-80s Northern Ireland and Apartheid South Africa. Peress’s monumental 2,000-page book Whatever You Say, Say Nothing sees a decade of photographs organised across 22 ‘semi-fictional days’ which offer a stirring portrait of the Troubles. Meanwhile Ractliffe’s haunting, poetic publication Photographs 1980s – Now captures the photographer’s homeland of South Africa over three decades, illustrating the complexities of a country scarred by the Apartheid, as well as the aftermath of civil war in neighbouring Angola.

Lastly, Russian image-maker Anastasia Samoylova’s beautiful but ominous series FloodZone centres the sun-soaked American city of Miami, spotlighting the “seductive and destructive dissonance“ of a community distracted by its own image while threatened by rising sea levels. 

“The work of this year’s nominees encapsulates themes which reflect not only the current times we live in, but the weight and responsibility of history,” says Rogers. “Despite what might be conceived to be the harrowing thread connecting the subjects they deal with … each artist manages to propose moments of epiphany or revelation.”

The Deutsche Börse Photography Prize is on show at The Photographers’ Gallery, London until 12 June 2022. The exhibition will then go on display at the Deutsche Börse’s headquarters in Frankfurt from 30 June 2022. The winner will be announced on 12 May 2022.