A short wordy post – I got to this years Deutsche Börse Prize exhibition exhibition for the second time and wanted to jot down a few thoughts.. I’m really a colourist at heart, Saul Leiter, Alex Webb and William Eggleston speak to me in ways that Cartier-Bresson never will. Perhaps because of this I’m not sure I managed to properly connect with any of the work this year. Yes I know that Richard Mosse’s project is dominated by colour, but it’s every bit as unreal to me as black and white because the colours he achieves are defined by the medium – infra red film – and not how the human eye perceives colour.
Which leads me on to what I felt was a defining motif of the work on show – each photographers work was defined by the medium of film. This seems to be a follow on from John Stezeaker’s win last year, where the use of archive materials was core to his practice. The strongest Echo of last year’s winner is in the work of Lorna Simpson who rephotographed / reinterpreted a series of found images.
As an exhibition it must have been problematic to hang, as there are only two galleries available. That means that one of the three sets of black & white images was always going to be in visual contrast to the huge and colourful images of Mosse. I think the curators got it right by going for the one which is most different – Simpson’s wall of small snapshot sized prints.
On the lower floor of the show are Alberto García-Alix and Jochen Lempert. we first encounter García-Alix’ series of self portraits, some of these are fine images and, viewed as set, we begin to get a feel of his progress through life, from a young man on a motor bike to middle age. Lempert’s work is a mixed bag, gain there are some individually strong images. He is nominated for what may have been a retrospective show in his native Germany, and I get the sense that you may need to be aware of the work and his history to get the full benefit from the show.
Mosse’s series is the most visually striking, but I consider the visual shock value of the work isn’t quite enough. Simpson’s work addresses issues (racial and gender) in a way that García-Alix’ more personal work doesn’t appear to and I don’t quite ‘get’ Lempert’s work. In my view then, based on what I’ve seen Simpson is my favourite for the award.