The shortlist for the 2017 edition of the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize is a superbly varied one, showcasing work that uses both more traditional photographic approaches alongside that born from a more experimental standpoint. The shortlisted artists are Sophie Calle, from France, Dana Lixenberg from The Netherlands, Awoiska van der Molen, also from The Netherlands and Swiss duo Taiyo Onorato and Nico Kreb.
According to The Photographers’ Gallery, which is displaying work by the shortlisted artists from this week, all the chosen photographers “investigate questions of truth and fiction, doubt and certainty, what constitutes the real and ideal and the relationship between the observer and the observed.”
Such bold themes make for work that’s at times, beautiful, at others disquieting and even eerie: in the case of Calle, her image feels at once as intensely chilling as the landscape we see through the window, and deeply personal and reflective.
Lixenberg, who was nominated for her publication Imperial Courts, spent 22 years visiting and revisiting the South Central area of Los Angeles, photographing the community of the Imperial Courts housing project in Watts. With each visit, the population vacillated as the community’s members grew up, or were imprisoned, or disappeared, or were killed. The tragic underpinnings of the circumstances make way for a certain joy and humanity in her images, which convey personality and movement so beautifully.
Her crisp portraiture shows a wildly different approach to her practice to that of Awoiska van der Molen, whose monochrome abstractions demonstrate a whole new way of approaching nature and landscape photography. The stillness and silence imbued in her images reflect her process: the artist spent long periods of time in solitude and silence in foreign places including Japan, Norway and Crete to explore “the identity” of each place, “allowing it to impress upon her its specific emotional and physical qualities and her personal experience within it.”
Landscape and place are also central to the work of Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs, who were nominated for their Eurasia exhibition. The series takes the idea of a road trip as its starting point, and looks to reframe it through contemporary eyes by constructing new images and experiences that are both real and imagined.
The Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize is on show at The Photographers’ Gallery in London from 3 March - 11 June 2017.
Main image: Zaha, 2013 © Taiyo Onorato/Nico Krebs Courtesy of the artists