Personal Investigations

The 2017 shortlist for the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize continues its established tradition of representing a diverse range of photographic practices, recognising and celebrating the many developments within the medium. This year, not only will there be a London exhibition for the projects in contention for the £30,000 prize (to be awarded on 18 May), it will then tour to the MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt from 29 June to 17 September and subsequently to Aperture Foundation, New York, from 15 November until 11 January – the first US exhibition in the prize’s 20-year history.

At the Photographers’ Gallery, London, the shortlisted projects take over the four and fifth floors. They include a timely and important record of a segregated community in the US from Dana Lixenberg; autobiographical and emotional excavation from Sophie Calle, and abstracted images of landscapes and photographic journeys that weave between fact and fiction from Awoiska van der Molen and the duo Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs.

Lixenberg’s Imperial Courts (Roma, 2015) continues a series of work ongoing since 1993 to create a multi-faceted portrait of the mainly African-American neighbourhood of the Imperial Courts housing project in Watts in Los Angeles. She began her project after the Los Angeles riots and has revisited and expanded it over the following 22 years.

By contrast, a very personal investigation of private loss is the theme of Calle’s My mother, my cat, my father, in that order. It deals with the deaths of her parents and her cat, her relationship with them and their impact on her life. Photographs of objects she identifies with her loved ones will be exhibited alongside personal text panels written by Calle.

Onorato and Krebs undertook an epic three-year, 17,000km road trip for their project EURASIA,  from Zurich in Switzerland to Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia, via Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The duo encountered landscapes and people in a state of ongoing transition; from ancient traditions and post-Communist structures to symbols of hyper-capitalism and globalisation clashing with evidence of poverty and decay.

Travel, and a personal subjective response to it, is also at the heart of Awoiska van der Molen’s black and white, abstracted images of landscapes in different scales and formats, including some from her nominated exhibition Blanco at Foam Fotografie Museum Amsterdam. She travels for weeks in solitude in unfamiliar landscapes, in order to slowly explores the identity of a place, allowing it to impress upon her its specific emotional and physical qualities.

Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2017, The Photographers’ Gallery, London, 3 March – 11 June. For more information:

1. Awoiska van der Molen #364-18, (2013). © Awoiska van der MolenCourtesy of the artist, Purdy Hicks Gallery and Kristof DeClercq gallery.