The Photography Prize worth Â£30,000 is awarded annually to an international photographer who is judged to have made the greatest contribution to photography over the previous year. This year’s finalists are John Davies (UK), Jacob Holdt (Denmark), Esko MÃ¤nnikkÃ¶ (Finland) and Fazal Sheikh (USA). Founded in 1996, the Photography Prize has become one of the most prestigious international arts awards.
This year’s shortlist for the Deutsche BÃ¶rse Photography Prize shows a welcome shift of emphasis. Whereas 2007’s nominees had rather intimidating, introspective themes, this year each of the artists has flung his net outwards with a keen, almost evangelical fervour, to create social observations which make full use of photography’s talent for conferring beauty on the ordinary. Walking around this exhibition, you begin to feel optimistic that these works herald new ambitions for the medium.
John Davies (b. 1949, UK) has been nominated for The British Landscape at the National Media Museum, Bradford, UK (13 October 2006 – 4 February 2007). His panoramic black & white photographs, taken between 1979 – 2005, document the changing post-industrial British landscape.
Jacob Holdt (b. 1947, Denmark) has been nominated for his publication Jacob Holdt, United States 1970 – 1975, published by Steidl GwinZegal, Germany (2007). In the early 1970s, Holdt spent five years hitchhiking across the US, living with and documenting the lives of the people he met – from the poorest Southern sharecroppers to some of Americas wealthiest families.
Esko MÃ¤nnikkÃ¶Ìˆ(b. 1959, Finland) has been nominated for his retrospective Cocktails 1990 – 2007 at Millesgarden, Stockholm, Sweden (1 September – 4 November 2007). A portraitist of isolation, MÃ¤nnikkÃ¶ documents with great humour, warmth and integrity the lives of those who inhabit the periphery.
Fazal Sheikh (b. 1965, USA) has been nominated for his publication Ladli, published by Steidl, Germany (2007). Sheikh is an artist-activist who uses photography to create sustained portraits of different communities around the world.
The Deutsche BÃ¶rse Photography Prize 2008 exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, edited by Stefanie Braun. The catalogue includes a short story by Riikka Ala-Harja inspired by Esko MÃ¤nnikkÃ¶s work, a fictional response to John Davies photographs by Sarah Hall and essays by Dr Caroline Blinder and Mary Warner Marien contextualising the work of Jacob Holdt and Fazal Sheikh.