154 MC – Deutsche Borse Prize – Photographers Gallery

The Deutsche Borse Prize is a selection of innovative photographers who take the medium to new horizons. Now in its 17th year, its already showcased many photographic artists such as John Stezaker, Mishka Henner and Paul Graham; that deserve recognition through their experimental styles and practices. This year brought to our attention four photographers who share innovative qualities but in their work, they bare little similarity.

Alberto Garcia-Alix; a self portrait photographer whose selected series gives the viewer an insight into, not only his life, but the lives that briefly expose themselves around him. The photographs were taken in Spain in the 1970’s and 80’s, capturing the mechanism of the end of Franco’s dictatorship (1970’s) to create new found liberties (1980’s) that affected millions in the country. Garcia-Alix becomes a character that lives in this new found world who shares his excesses and meditations with the audience as he explores himself. These lyrical images challenge self representation in portraiture with really intense and intimate portraits. They provoke controversy through their blunt immorality; but questions his contemplation and state of mind or staged representation of people during the period. Photography that presents what some are too afraid of presenting.

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Jochen Lempert intertwines photographic process with science to produce idyllic artefacts. The images present his curiosity of the natural world in all their detail and innate qualities. Their form draws in the viewers to share in his curiosity by looking into the photograph to see these small insects presented actual size and to view other elemental creatures. Its a scientific experiment thats aided by the camera and the processes that many engage with, creating a horizon that makes his interest our concern.

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Lorna Simpson explores self representation and identity through her staged self portraiture and archive edits. She carries out similar poses in likeness to different images from different times of a different person to challenge what is original. The mass of images supports her themes of gender and cultural differences; it repeats notions and compositions which makes us recognise the conformity of portraiture. People recognise poses in everyday amateur images that influence these fault personas in photography; Simpson’s repetition and interplay with text acts on this semblance and presents the idea in a focused study and archive.

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Richard Mosse seeks to document the failure of documentary war photography, bringing a surreal art to the tragedies of war. Mosse photographs the adversity of the Democratic Republic of Congo using discontinued Kodak Aerochrome film used for military surveillance. It is astutely used in his ‘infra’ series to disturb the drained perception of the familiar, taking us to a kaleidoscopic world that makes us place the conflict into an inhumane space because of the resemblance to a location in a sci-fi film. This unhinged spectrum makes us find more interest in war photography; making bleak landscapes bearable to continue viewing, hoping that the bright colours resonate onto the solders causing terror. But the contrast between bright and dark doesn’t mix, the terror stays, making the photography more powerful. 

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The exhibition showed adoration to the work by placing it in a space for innovative photographers. The space allowed those viewing it to compare and analyse the photographers. In particular, the work of Richard Mosse stood out with its immense prints, standing tall above the other contestants work, giving the impression the audience was looking into a new world framed by Mosse. The competition was made two-fold by these astonishing prints and Alix-Garcia’s blunt immorality presented tightly in the room below. It was difficult to justify why either Simpson or Lempert had the similar scope or intent that could contest such work. Simpson’s small display posed nervously next to the splendour of Mosse. While Lempert’s seemly incoherent study was left legs flailing in the shadow of Alix-Garica’s bold portraits. The space was unforgiving but gratifying, a well-lit environment to learn and observe the work of talented photographers. Even though work did stand out, there was still a place for all work displayed to stand firm as part of the competition, creating a great notion for critical thinking. An exhibition that was ideal for those learning or thinking critically about photography and those who practice it.

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