Powerful Exhibitions:
Deutsche Börse 2023

The Louvre. Galleria degli Uffizi. National Museum of Natural History. Musee d’Orsay. Centre Pompidou. These were the top five most-visited museums of 2022, amassing over 20 million visitors between them. We’ve all seen exhibitions that have stuck with us over the years. But what makes a show stand out? The Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation’s annual prize endeavours to answer this with a shortlist of artists making waves. The 2023 edition, now open at The Photographers’ Gallery, London, spotlights four shows that have “made the most significant contribution to photography over the previous 12 months.”

Bieke Depoorter: A Chance Encounter
C/O Berlin (30 April – 7 September 2022)

What should the dynamic between photographer and subject look like? Bieke Depoorter’s (b. 1986) C/O Berlin show dug into this question via two seminal series of work: Michael and Agata. Both series were sparked by chance meetings with strangers. In Michael, Depoorter examines the life and the disappearance of a man she met on the streets of Portland, Oregon in 2015. Agata, meanwhile, begins with a first meeting in a Parisian strip club in 2017. The project pushes the limits of a creative friendship, asking questions about performance, boundaries and authorship. Across both series, Depoorter looks at the role of the artist; the idea of “truth” in representation; and the line between personal and professional relationships.

Frida Orupabo: I have seen a million pictures of my face and still I have no idea
Fotomuseum Winterthur (26 February – 29 May 2022)

Frida Orupabo’s (b. 1986) sculptural collages and digital works are rooted in questions of race, sexuality and identity. Utilising visual material circulating online – including colonial-era photographs, ethnographic relics and contemporary imagery – the Norwegian Nigerian artist “rearranges and remakes” the archive. The resulting handmade images take the shape of fragmented, mostly female-bodied, Black figures. Characters are assembled layer-by-layer in a process that “denounces one-dimensional depictions of Black lives.” These cut-outs invite various readings of the stories and lives of the people depicted, many of whom are entirely absent from the archives. Orupabo invites a consideration of how photography significantly contributes to the formation and perpetuation of colonial power relations and violence.

Samuel Fosso: Samuel Fosso
Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris (10 November 2021 – 13 March 2022)

Since the mid-1970s, Samuel Fosso (b. 1962) has dedicated his artistic practice to self-portraits and performative photography. Fosso’s retrospective traced a career of almost 50 years, showing iconic series, lesser-known works, archival material and previously unpublished images. Raised in Nigeria, Fosso fled the Biafran War as a young boy, and in 1972 was taken in by an uncle in Bangui in the Central African Republic. In 1975, at the age of 13, Fosso opened his Studio Photo Nationale. Alongside commercial work, Fosso immediately began a series of self-portraits – a mode of representation he has never abandoned. In these shots, he plays the role of key historical figures and social archetypes in front of the camera.

Arthur Jafa: Live Evil
Luma, Arles (14 April – 30 November)

Live Evil was the largest and most comprehensive exhibition of Arthur Jafa’s (b. 1960) work to date. In Arles, the artist and filmmaker presented a substantial collection of film and still images in room-sized installations. Since the 1980s, Jafa has been accumulating and assembling pictures from books and magazines, arranging imagery in new constellations. YouTube remains a favourite resource, alongside news footage and home video. By placing one resonant cultural artefact next to another, Jafa eschews a linear narrative – instead organising material through associations, visual resemblance or theme. In this way, Jafa aspires to an art that harnesses “the power, beauty, and alienation of black music.”

thephotographersgallery.org.uk | Until 11 June

Image Credits:
1. Samuel Fosso, from the series 70s Lifestyle, 1975-78 © Samuel Fosso Courtesy of the artist and Jean Marc Patras, Paris
2. Frida Orupabo, Turning, 2021 © Frida Orupabo Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Nordenhake, Berlin, Stockholm, Mexico City
3. Samuel Fosso, Autoportrait, from the series 70s Lifestyle, 1976 © Samuel Fosso Courtesy of the artist and JM Patras, Paris
4. Arthur Jafa, Monster, 1988 © Arthur Jafa Courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery