Exhibition: Deutsche Börse Prize 2020

Last Friday I took the train up to London and visited the Photographers’ Gallery to see the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2020 exhibition. The four artists shortlisted this year are Anton Kusters, Mohamed Bourouissa, Mark Neville and Clare Strand.

Anton Kusters’ Blue Skies Project is a collation of 1,087 Polaroid images of the sky taken at former concentration and extermination camp locations, each stamped with the site’s GPS coordinates and the number of victims at that site. The concept is of course sobering and thought-provoking, but I found that the installation’s horizontal arrangement across a large table top made it difficult to view in any detail except at the edges, so I only spent a short time with it and noticed that nobody else seemed to linger long in the room either.

Mohamed Bourouissa’s Free Trade draws on various of the artist’s projects over the past 15 years and includes several virtual 3D images accessed via an app. These life-sized images of the invisible Army of the Unemployed are impressive when viewed in the app, especially when you can also see real people beside them in the gallery, but I couldn’t get my phone to do a screen grab, so I used the app’s option to send some images via email. Unfortunately the rendering in the mailed versions was very poor compared to the live app views.

Mark Neville’s Parade, shot in Brittany in the three years following the Brexit referendum, was my favourite amongst the four contenders. I first came across Neville’s work when his Deeds Not Words was published in 2012, and was struck by the way he was using intensely beautiful images to campaign on a social issue. As in that book and his Port Glasgow Book Project, the colour, light and composition of the images in Parade make them evocative of Renaissance paintings, and all his subjects are presented with great warmth and dignity.

Finally, Clare Strand’s Discrete Channel with Noise references early experiments in the transmission of images by dividing photographs into squares, giving each a greyscale rating and recreating the image from that information, in this case using paint. This seems to me more or less the same way we transmit digital images today, so I was somewhat underwhelmed by the concept.

I would like to see Mark Neville win the prize, but feel it’s more likely to go to Bourouissa, whose work feels more contemporary than any of the other finalists’ and deals directly with topical issues of inclusion and diversity, as well as being more experimental in terms of format.

References and resources

Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2020. Exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery, London. From 21 February to 7 June 2020.

Anton Kusters’ Blue Skies Project

Captures from Mohamed Bourouissa’s Army of the Unemployed app-generated 3D-images

Mark Neville’s Parade

Clare Strand’s Discrete Channel with Noise