How is this year’s selection within the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize reflective of the current state of photography?

Contribute to a series of on-line discussions and debates related to this year’s Deutsche Börse Photography Prize. Have your say on photography.

How is this year’s selection within the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize reflective of the current state of photography?


The work on show for this year’s Prize exhibition addresses some specific topics and themes. In particular there are personal reflections on ‘home’, the power and presence of the built environment, social observation and conflict-scarred landscapes. The scale of work in the show ranges from 15 x 17.5 cm to 2.8 x 1.6 metres in size. There is tenderness, nostalgia and humour, as well as detached documentary. There is black and white as well as colour work, analogue and digitally-produced work. But do these topics and formats reflect the kind of photography being produced more generally? Have your say.

18 Comments on “How is this year’s selection within the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize reflective of the current state of photography?”

  1. 1 chbtz said at 7:38 am on February 15th, 2010:

    I found out that most of the photographers shortlisted for this prize use film, not digital, cameras. The “current state of photography” is digital, isn’t it? I mean, are we not almost fully in the digital age? So in this way, no – the work in this show seems more connected to the past, not the present or future state of photography.

  2. 2 Dr.Andrew Stevens said at 8:39 am on February 18th, 2010:

    Looking at the submissions and at the a lot of current students’ work I sometimes feel I’m in a totally different profession – I travel all over the globe shooting advertising and corporate photography on high res digital backs and haven’t seen anything that relates to everyday photography and actually earning a living as a practitioner – or perhaps we are in a different profession?

  3. 3 marjoriem said at 5:20 pm on February 23rd, 2010:

    The photographs I saw today don’t look anything like the stuff me and my friends take… Except for Anna Fox photographs, it all feels really serious and dry. It’s a complete turn off, pretty boring and doesn’t make me feel hopeful about my future as a photographer…Is this what I have to do to show my work in a gallery?!!!

  4. 4 arghybhargy said at 10:53 am on February 24th, 2010:

    Why does everyone aspire to show their work in a gallery? It’s not like that’s the only outlet FGS

  5. 5 Sander said at 8:00 pm on February 27th, 2010:

    Sadly mostly the manic depressive school of photography , flat and boring …

  6. 6 ladygagoo said at 7:29 am on March 3rd, 2010:

    I couldn’t agree with you less Sander! What is it you are looking for in photography exhibitions? These photographers are making work that reflects what we put in and take out of this world. They’re not out to entertain but to reflect back and make us think about what we as humans are doing to each other and to the planet. Call it “boring” if you like but at least its not about beauty for beauty’s sake!!! Now that’s BORING!!!

  7. 7 Victoria W. said at 5:31 am on March 5th, 2010:

    “..But do these topics and formats reflect the kind of photography being produced more generally? Have your say.”

    No, I think not but that is what makes the DBPP so unique and important. My understanding is that the DBPP is a prize dedicated to fine art photographers who deal with the complexity of being in this world. So I ask myself what is the kind of photography being produced more generally? I would answer wedding, commercial, advertising, and travel photography.

    I speak for myself when I say I don’t think these types of photography fit here. After all, there are a prolific number of competitions and awards, both national and international for these types of photography. I think the DBPP should continue to focus on fine art photography by fine art photographers even if it is not reflective of the kind of photography being produced more generally. More specifically, I found this on the Photographers’ Gallery website about the aim of the Prize, “ also to increase audiences for contemporary photography and explore its role in society.”

    The second important part of the DBPP is the actual prize: the money. Let me explain.. I think the prize money is very important because it enables fine art photographers to continue with their art, unlike commercial, wedding, travel, photographers who make a living from their photography.

  8. 8 Rowan said at 9:12 pm on March 16th, 2010:

    In that there are no naked women, sunsets or kittens in mugs, absolutely not.

  9. 9 Kieran said at 10:19 pm on March 16th, 2010:

    “How is this year’s selection within the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize reflective of the current state of photography?”

    Well, the answer is contained within the question, really.

    75% of the photographers shortlisted this year were selected on the grounds of work which was made up to thirty years ago.
    Without even looking at the actual work, given the short history of photography as an ‘artistic’ discipline, or form of expression, I don’t think work that was made a quarter of a century ago can be passed off as contemporary.

  10. 10 Anne said at 1:09 pm on March 17th, 2010:

    This year’s show at the Photographer’s gallery gives a common impression, that the medium is pretty much stuck. Who still wants to look at another serial representation of landscapes or shop windows? I’m not saying it doesn’t have its own right, but I’m honestly a bit bored. I think there are a couple of photographers out there who try to go against the grain of what is the common and established form of representation, or who simply do work that is more interesting. I would generally love to see a more loose photographic approach in the galleries. Or even work that goes beyond pure photography and spreads into other mediums. Maybe in a couple of years time? But I fear that the younger photographers will take the route of the generation before them, because they’re scared and want to play safe. I like Anna Fox’ tiny cupboards book a lot though. But the work of the others is neither exciting nor makes you think, and none of the four does work I would consider as contemporary. I don’t think it always needs to be, but then at least I want to look at fascinating images. The show seems to be disconnected from the rest of the art world, in some ways. I think most photographic exhibitions do.

  11. 11 Ron said at 11:47 am on March 19th, 2010:

    As previous years I find most of the photography falls into a rut -most of the images try to shock rather than make any effort to compose.

  12. 12 andlow said at 4:56 pm on March 19th, 2010:

    By ‘compose’ are you meaning in relation to ‘composition’? In which case, this certainly makes no sense in relation to Donovan Wylie’s work but also in relation to all four people shortlisted.

  13. 13 Tim said at 8:57 pm on April 13th, 2010:

    @Ron: Which of the work did you find that tried ‘To Shock’. I don’t think any of it was ’shocking’, it mainly dealt with subjects that are fairly ubiquitous.

    I think the first few comments reflect what is probably true about the ‘current state of photography’, is that the general viewing public don’t understand contemporary art photography, this is not necessarily a criticism of them. Nor is it a necessarily a criticism of the work itself, which I found to be mostly fascinating.

  14. 14 ian russell said at 8:33 am on April 14th, 2010:

    I had no prior knowledge of the exhibition, I was in town visiting the big galleries and thought I’d take in some photographs as well. I was unmoved by what I saw, frankly. I had been in Barcelona about two years ago and happened by chance to stumble on their Fotografia exhibition which I found wonderfully discerning and immensely inspiring. Incidently, on the same day I was in London the NPG was exhibiting a beautiful selection of work by Jane Bown. Maybe my expectations were set too high on the day.

    To answer the question I would compare it to probably the most popular platform for photography today, Flickr, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find the style and calibre of work on someone’s Flickr pages, and more likely more intriguing images on its ”interesting” pages. Photography is now so affordable and accessible, and so ubiquitous and common that you have to fight harder to get out of the thought box. I know I couldn’t do it. But somehow I felt I probably could do much of what I saw in this exhibition, given a topic, a camera and time.

    But it’s good to have a gallery dedicated to photography. I hope to visit again soon.

  15. 15 ian russell said at 9:01 am on April 14th, 2010:

    @Ron: Shock would’ve been something to take away with me. As it is, I can’t remember much of what I saw now.

    @Tim: What do you need to understand? Is photography an art, or more of a science? In the cafe, I wrote on my programme, ”what is photography for?!” in reaction to what I’d seen.

    Excellent cup of tea, btw; much better than the NPG cafe. I wished I’d tried one of the cakes.

  16. 16 Jane said at 7:34 pm on April 18th, 2010:

    This is a really interesting discussion. I was going to post on here that (in a really simplistic sense!) the photographers presented articulate four very different forms of photography: Anna Fox, on the personal styled snapshot, Zoe for old school photographic techniques and the camera as an eye, Donovan for the use of art and photography as a tool to understand the world around us and Sophie for the modern use of photography with all its media connections and manipulations. Perhaps the future of photography is most evident in the judges choice of Sophie as the winner. It will be interesting to see what happens to photography and it’s situation between art, document and media if this is a taste of more to come. I hope so!

  17. 17 Nigel Amies said at 3:53 am on April 21st, 2010:

    It would help if I could actually see even just a selection of the photos in this exhibition. I I live on the other side of the globe. Isn’t there some link to the actual pictures?

  18. 18 G said at 7:36 am on April 24th, 2010:

    I suppose a photographic gallery in some ways sets itself up for attracting the casual gallery-goer, those not particularly versed in the medium’s contemporary conceptual discourse or visual language.

    On reading some of the posts here, one suspects that we still have some way to go in presenting photography as anything other than pure spectacle or a triumph of achievement. In short, like a sport.

    This year’s DBP Prize represents the movement of photography away from it’s ‘decisive moment’ and toward a contemplative and poetic document of the world, whilst acknowledging the undeniable influence and legacy of the New Colourists, in Anna Fox.