01 November 2006

Deutsche Börse Photography Prize - 2007 Shortlist

The four shortlisted photographers for the annual Deutsche Börse Photography Prize were announced recently (18 October). They are: Philippe Chancel, Anders Petersen, Fiona Tan and The Atlas Group. The winner won't be announced until early spring. This year the prize was awarded to Robert Adams.

I saw Fiona Tan's "Corrections" installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago a couple of years ago and thought it was good but not great. Anders Petersen might get my vote simply for his "Café Lehmitz," pictures one of which provided the cover image for for Tom Waits' 1985 record Rain Dogs. But I am not sure that an album cover (even a terrific one!) warrants the 30K pound prize. As for Philippe Chancel, I guess I am not overwhelmed either. I find his "Sex Release" clever and his projects on North Korea and Cambodia uninspiring. He hardly seems in the same league as Adams or Petersen.

That leaves The Atlas Group and its tendentious "Archives." This, I think, is immensely creative and provocative work. According to the press realease, the material in the Archives was collected between "1989 and 2004 to research and document the contemporary history of Lebanon. However, the authenticity of the photographic and video documents in this archive are continuously queried, leaving the viewer uncertain how history - in particular one marked by the trauma of civil war - can be told and visually represented. The ‘documents’ in the exhibition appear based on a person’s actual memories but also draw on cultural fantasies constructed from the material of collective memories." Here are a couple of images from the archives:

"Onlookers" © The Atlas Group

"Hostage: The Bachar Tapes" (Video Still) © The Atlas Group.

Although the proper outcome seems quite obvious to me, if I had to put money on it I'd likely opt for Petersen. He's the safe bet. Too bad. Even though his subjects are rather unconventional, his photographs really are not.

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