Exhibition Review: Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2013

The Deutsche Börse Photography Prize awards a contemporary photographer for a specific body of work which has influenced the world of photography significantly in the past year. Those nominated for the prize this year are Mishka Henner, Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, Chris Killip and Cristina De Middel.

The exhibition stretches over two floors of The Photographer’s Gallery, giving each nominee ample space. This year’s shortlisted photographers have all chosen to work in very different ways and using a multiple of disciplines. All contestants can be said to base their projects in documentary photography.

Chris Killip, who has been nominated for a body of work called What Happened – Great Britain 1970-1990, has created maybe the most traditional project with regards to documentary photography. His black and white photographs portray working life in north England. There are several beautiful prints mirroring Killip’s long-term engagement within a few communities and his own way of creating photographs.

© Chris Killip, Youth on Wall, Jarrow, Tyneside, 1976

Cristina De Middel has also chosen to, in a way, document a specific topic – a failed space programme in Zambia in 1964 – in her publication The Afronauts. She has mixed her playful colour photographs with items found in an archive: old photographs, letters from government officials discussing the programme, technical sketches and drawings. There are a couple of interesting things with this body of work: the way she presents the space programme, and the novelty factor of documenting this failed programme in the first place.

© Cristina De Middel, Untitled, from the series The Afronauts, 2011

Mishka Henner is nominated for his project No Man’s Land. This project takes up a whole room with a couple of huge prints and a few smaller ones. One main piece is a video installation. Mishka has used Google maps to find photographs of prostitutes in southern European countries. He found the locations through reading blogs and other web posts of men sharing information of where to find the girls. This body of work is a sinister exploration of surveillance and voyeurism.

© Mishka Henner, SS98, Cerignola Foggia, Italy, 2011

Lastly, and maybe my personal favourite work, is that of Broomberg and Chanarin who are nominated for their publication War Primer 2. War Primer is Bertold Breacht’s 1955 peculiar book (original title Kriegsfibel published in German) containing four-line poems on war combined with photographs or newspaper clippings. This way of combining text with images is referred to as ‘photo-epigrams’.

© Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Plate 23, 2011. Aircraft, at right, is seen as it is about to fly into the World Trade Center in New York on Tuesday. The aircraft was the second to fly into the tower Tuesday morning, 2011

Broomberg and Chanarin have placed new pictures found on Google on top of the original photographs or news clippings creating a new War Primer with new meaning. The viewer can see parts of the original picture underneath the new one which creates a double meaning. War Primer concentrates on the Second World War and War Primer 2 on both sides of the ‘War on Terror’. The work is fascinating and intelligent and is the body of work that takes up most viewing time when visiting the show.

The limited edition War Primer 2 sold out quickly but can be downloaded as a digital version here..

The Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2013 is on display at The Photographer’s Gallery until 30 June 2013 and the winner will be announced on the 10 June. More info…

Exhibition reviewed by Mari Boman, intern