Europe's biggest photo award returns with four new nominees for the £30,000 prize.
There’s a theme to this year’s Deutsche Börse Photography Prize, and that is that photography isn’t really able to deal with the contemporary world. A lot of what is in this show of the four shortlisted artists speaks about the unseen or the implied, what is beyond pictorial representation. Sometimes literally, as in the case of Trevor Paglen’s images of the post-Snowden US intelligence landscape: drones, satellite paths and secret installations; sometimes obliquely, as with Tobias Zielony, who took his photos of African refugees in Europe back to the countries from which they had fled to publish them (‘The Citizen’, 2015, pictured).
Both Zielony and Paglen also offer physical realisations of their ideas: respectively a free newspaper and a wi-fi hotspot linked to a security network. The other two artists do the same; Laura El-Tantawy offers a sound installation to accompany her images of the Egyptian revolution while the prize for most-unphotographic photography work must go to Erik Kessels, who brings a whole car into the gallery, a restoration project his father was working on when he was felled by a stroke. The ideas are fascinating, but always squarely to the fore. Okay, so part of the point is that in the twenty-first century we often don’t know what we’re looking at, or even that we are looking at something. But for a show concerned with hidden worlds, there is very little mystery here.