This year's Deutsche Börse Photography Prize is underway, with the four finalists, Rinko Kawauchi, John Stezaker, Pieter Hugo and Christopher Williams exhibiting in London's newly renovated Photographer's Gallery in Soho. The prize honours the individual deemed to have made the most significant contribution to photography this past year – either in the contexts of publication or exhibition, and is one of the most prestigious and eagerly anticipated awards of the year.
This years show leans towards the fine art and documentary genres. Pieter Hugo's work 'Permanent Error' focuses on waste collectors who work amid the toxic smoke on the biggest dump for unwanted and broken computers in the world. Hugo's huge prints and eerie multimedia display on the beautiful top floor of the gallery are an unsettling reminder of the world's inequality.
In stark contrast, Rinko Kawauchi's prints from her work Illuminance and Iridescence, explores beauty in the every day. "I prefer to listen to the small voices in the world, those which whisper," she writes in her artist's statement; "…my eyes naturally focus on small things." Kawauchi's radiant images poetically flow across three walls on the top floor of the gallery and complement Hugo's work surprisingly well, perhaps suggesting that Hugo's work also leans towards a fine art perspective.
Down to the fourth floor where British artist John Stezaker combines various found imagery to brilliant effect. Concentrating on glamorous images from Hollywood’s Golden Era, his work challenges our understanding and consumption of “icons” and emphasises the impacts and illusions of photography.
Sharing this floor with Stezaker is American artist Christopher Williams. William's highly conceptual work is perhaps the hardest to engage with. Two colour images, separated by a third black and white print are surrounded by a sea of white walls. Print quality is undeniably superb, but it's hard to relate William's images to his statement concerning the lingering effects of the cold war and the role of photography in shaping our society.
The Gallery's impossible to escape book shop and great café are two more reasons to visit before the show closes on the 9th of September.