Deutsche Börse Anti-Photography prize

I’ve more or less refrained from comment in public on this year’s prize competition at the London Photographers’ Gallery, and I ignored the invitation to spend yesterday evening at a considerably more interesting opening elsewhere. It has become very much a case of kicking a dead dog when it’s down.

The Guardian has I think got it about right, both in Sean O’Hagan’s initial comments when the shortlist was announced and in Wednesday’s piece on the show by Adrian Searle.  There are some salient points too in the comments.

Chris Killip is the only photographer with work of any real stature in the show, and as Searle concludes “He should win because his work is still valuable. Much of the other work here won’t be, in 30 years’ time.” Though probably he won’t.

Although I rather liked Cristina de Middel’s The Afronauts, a nicely done spoof space programme, it does seem to me rather familiar territory, a rather less complex version of Joan Fontcuberta’s 1997 Sputnik,  itself perhaps an unnecessary duplication in ideas of his earlier Fauna. Of course Killip’s early work in Isle of Man was also a reworking of Paul Strand, but the work for which he has been nominated shows more varied ideas. There is a nice presentation of his 2011 show 4 & 20 Photographs from the Howard Yezerski Gallery, which I think makes clear that Strand was not his only influence.  It’s perhaps interesting to read the comment by ‘answerback‘ (scroll down from here) which in part deals with this, but also makes some other adverse comments on his practice, though I wonder how much he really knows about Killip and his work. Perhaps he’ll read this and comment more!

Killip, so far as we know, has done little photography since the publication of ‘In Flagrante’ in 1988. There was a slightly botched commission photographing a Pirelli factory, and one longer term project on Irish pilgrimages, published as Here Comes Everybody. It is more than questionable whether his work “significantly contributed to photography in Europe between 1 October 2011 and 30 September 2012” in any way that would make him eligible for this award.

But at lease Killip and de Middel are actually photographers and the work for which they were shortlisted was photography. I think it most likely that, as last year, the prize will go to a non-photographer.


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