Photographs tend to flatten—in multiple senses of the word—the subjects they depict. But do they have to?
The medium’s capacity for complex, multidimensional depiction is front of mind for Bieke Depoorter, Samuel Fosso, Arthur Jafa, and Frida Orupabo—the four artists nominated for this year’s prestigious Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2023. Their work is on view now in a show at the Photographers’ Gallery in London.
Now in its 27th iteration, the annual £30,000 ($36,000) prize recognizes outstanding photographic artworks or exhibitions presented in the preceding year. The winner, who will be announced in a ceremony set for May 11, will join an impressive list of previous recipients, including Deana Lawson (who won in 2022), Susan Meiselas (2019), Trevor Paglen (2016), and Paul Graham (2009). This year’s runners-up will each receive £5,000 ($6,000).
Depoorter, a Belgian artist whose work often probes the power dynamics between photographer and subject, was chosen for her 2022 show “A Chance Encounter” at C/O Berlin. Among the two projects she presented there was Michael (2015-present), an installation that explores the inner life of a man Depoorter met on the streets of Portland, Oregon in 2015.
Last year’s career-spanning survey of Fosso at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris qualified him for the Deutsche Börse prize. For five decades now, the influential African photographer has turned his camera on himself, donning elaborate costumes for coded self-portraits that reflect on the performance of identity.
A series of piecework photo-sculptures represents the contributions of Orupabo, who was nominated for her exhibition “I have seen a million pictures of my face and still I have no idea” at Switzerland’s Fotomuseum Winterthur. Using imagery culled from both colonial archives and contemporary picture-sharing platforms, the Norwegian Nigerian artist creates collages of black female bodies that are both dense and fragmented.
Jafa, who rounds out the group of shortlisted creators, similarly draws from disparate sources for his own library of pictures, though how that material manifests in his work varies widely. The American artist’s 2022 exhibition “Live Evil” at LUMA in Arles, France featured photographs, sculptures, and large-scale installations, as well as signature films like The White Album (2018).
This year’s four shortlisted artists were selected by a jury of five industry experts: Anne-Marie Beckmann, director of the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation; Natalie Herschdorfer, director of the Photo Elysee in Switzerland; Mahtab Hussain, an artist based in Britain; Thyago Nogueria, head of contemporary photography at the Instituto Moreira Salles in Brazil; and Brett Rogers, director of the Photographers’ Gallery.
“Our shortlist for the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2023 exemplifies photography’s resounding power and resonance right now,” said Rogers in a statement. “Each artist addresses subjects which drive forward debate about the nature of the medium, and the role it plays in history and society.”
See more pictures from the 2023 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize nominees below.