The Photographers' Gallery's annual prize celebrates it's thirteenth year, it's the first in the new space at Ramilies Street. The award, sponsored by the Deutsche Börse Group, worth £30,000 aims to raise the profile of the winning photographer and contemporary photography. Four nominees were selected for their contribution to photography in the past year.
Paul Graham - 'A shimmer of possibility' - Drawn from twelve volumes of short stories capturing contemporary America, as it goes about it's day. Ordinary lives made less so through the observations of the photographer. The exhibition has a casual, almost warm connection with the subject. With no hint of pose or contrived presentation, Graham has managed to deliver the sense that the camera is not present.
Tod Papageorge – 'Passing Through Eden' – A rich monochromatic stroll through Central Park, uncovering the intimate moments of New Yorkers at ease. Each image has a charismatic beauty reminiscent of 50s street photography. What is most surprising is the time over which these were taken, 1969-1991. A long term project that works well as a single exhibition with no obvious reference to time.
Taryn Simon – 'An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar' – A true curiosity shop of American cultural oddities and unseen views. The collection is richly original with each image standing alone without continuing narrative. The resulting thirst for explanation is only resolved by the aid of lengthy annotations.
Emily Jacir - 'Material for a film' – An interesting exhibition combining photography, objects, documents and interviews, which recount the life and death of Wael Zuaiter in 1972. This entry hovers in the hinterland between historical documentary and contemporary art, undecided in it's nature of exhibition, installation or collection. While the work shown depicts historical reference, it highlights the long period of political and violent turmoil that still grips the Middle East today.
The judges have a difficult task. Graham has a distinctive, contemporary style which contrasts the more classical approach of Papageorge. While Simon's work relies on annotations for explanation it's still a fascinating experience. Jacir's work is completely different as it deliberately steps outside exhibition norms to the point of questioning the photographic reference.
One distinct winner is the new space at Ramilies Street. Its ability to show multiple exhibitions within defined spaces and floors gives the Photographers' Gallery greater potential for the future.