A crisp lack of clarity

Christopher Williams, Bläsing G 2000, Bläsing GmbH, Essen Model: Christoph Boland, November 15th 2010, 2010

Christopher Williams’s pictures in the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize exhibition might well be really interesting were there enough of them on show to offer some sort of clue as to the artist’s intention. Sadly though the sharpness and objectivity of the images isn’t matched by a clarity of non-visual communication and I was left idly wondering what Williams wanted to say but without any determination to go out of my way to find out. Given that I actively like conceptual art, I probably fall into the section of the audience Williams has the most hope of winning round, although I do admit that once the ‘I really can’t be bothered with this’ feeling takes hold I do tend to given in to it with indecent haste and often quite bad grace.

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Life, illuminated and remixed

Rinko Kawauchi, from Illuminance, 2011

The pictures that make up Rinko Kawauchi’s Illuminance, the book for which she was nominated for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize, are individually beautiful and collectively fascinating and at times baffling. Some feel like stolen moments, some deliberately constructed, all share an understanding of how the camera sees light and its ability to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. The pictures in the series have been made over a period of about fifteen years for various reasons – including both commissions and personal work – and brought together to form a cohesive body of work.

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The cost of change

Pieter Hugo, Naasra Yeti, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana, 2009

In a way at the opposite end of the scale to John Stezaker’s use of existing pictures, Pieter Hugo’s Permanent Error is a documentary project that clearly shows the very real human cost of technological change and the rush to replace anything we perceive as slightly out of date. I’m sure many of us are guilty of replacing computers that still work because there are newer and faster models around. This body of work is a reminder that we need to learn to deal responsibly with the equipment we cast aside. Hugo has photographed the landscape of a site in Ghana where obsolete technology is dumped and the young people who make a living of sorts salvaging the metals that have a scrap value.

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Fragmented view

John Stezaker, Untitled II, Reader from The Third Person Archive, 2012

There’s often something strangely frustrating about the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize and in some ways this year’s exhibition is no exception. Photography has been a dominant medium in art practice for a long time now but a prize of this nature has to balance art against documentary practices often resulting in a strangely unsatisfying exhibition. In this year’s exhibition, one body of work stands out in terms of he artist’s use of photography in his practice. Unusually for a Deutsche Börse nominee, John Stezaker (whose work I’ve briefly referred to before) uses rather than makes photographs, producing collages from found images gathered over several decades.

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