The Final Four: Deutsche Börse

This evening I went to the opening of the Photographers’ Gallery Deutsche Börse Photographic prize, where work from the 4 shortlisted photographers is on display until April 4, with the winner to be announced on March 5, 2008.

The drinks for the event were kindly supplied by Asahi (beer) and Errazuriz (wine) but as usual were not to my taste. So perhaps my thoughts I’m now writing will be more lucid than might otherwise be the case. I’ve been a supporter and member of the gallery for over 25 years, because I think photographers ought to give their support to the major London gallery supposedly devoted to the medium. However I sometimes despair of the gallery’s taste in photography as well as wine and beer!

In previous years, when I was writing for the largest commercial site yet to deal seriously with photography (alas no longer) I’ve given a prediction of the winner of this prize (formerly sponsored by another bank.) I’ve always found it necessary to think who should win the prize because of their photography, but then to look at the jury and where they are coming from and try and predict the winner on political grounds. This is a process that usually gives me two chances out of four of being right, although my experience is that choosing the photographer “who has made the greatest contribution to photography over the previous year” (the stated purpose of the award) seldom finds the winner.

This year the contest is between John Davies (b1949, Britain), Jacob Holdt (b1947, Denmark), Esko Männikkö (b1959, Finland) and Fazal Sheikh (b1947, USA). Although I personally think one of them stands heads and shoulders above the rest, it is perhaps possible this year, unlike in some previous years, to see reasons why any of the four might walk away with the £30,000 first prize. There is a reasonably illustrated catalogue available from the Photographers Gallery at £16.99, though I didn’t feel moved to buy a copy, for reasons that will probably be clear when you have read my four pieces on the people in the show.

In my previous post on the Deutsche Börse Shortlist I gave some basic information about the four people selected, along with links to their work online. What I will write now are some fairly short pieces based on the work as now displayed at the gallery and my reactions to it.

John Davies
Jacob Holdt
Esko Männikkö
Fazal Sheikh

You can read some of the basic information about these photographers (and a little more) on other sites – one of the better examples is the Daily Telegraph, (not a paper I would normally bother to read, though many years ago my step-mother used to take it simply on the grounds that it had a crossword she could cope with.) This has features on Davies, Holdt, Männikkö and Sheikh, each accompanied by a set of pictures from those at the gallery.

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