This year’s Deutsche Bars Prize shortlist is interesting – but is it photography? | Sean O’Hagan | Art and design

If Last year’s Deutsche Welle Photography Foundation award was under discussion, its successor is unforgettably esoteric. Four artists have been shortlisted for 2021 Polomi Basu, Alejandro Cartagena, Kao Fei and Zainab Sadira. The Deutsche Barsi Award “recognizes artists and projects that are considered to have made the most significant contribution to photography in the last 12 months.” Within this flexible delivery, though, this shortlist is random, even by past standards.

Cao uses the site-specific installation and film to discover the reality and its effects on the individual and society. His characters are in a long state between real and old age, negotiating with a world in which the future has already arrived and is full of uncertainty. Although she uses humor and realism, the stories she creates are full of dystopian pressures, including digital atomisation and the increasing mechanization of labor in her native China. However, it is difficult to say that photography is central to his process and that doing so would actually endanger his ambitious, multifaceted nature of vision.

A Little Guide to Homo sapiens by Alejandro Cartagina, a photo of 2020.

A Little Guide to Homo sapiens by Alejandro Cartagina, a photo of 2020. Photographer: Alejandro Cartagina / Courtesy Artist

سڈیرا کی Prejudice in the Geo de Poume in Paris To find its French and Algerian identity, complex and complex to refer to its French-Algerian identity and the transfer of the politics of deportation and more clearly radical African-African liberation movements of the 1960s and 70s. Extensively used for archiving documents and an installation. She deals with complex subjects that are very modern and still resonate throughout history. In this case, photography is part of a broader personal and political landscape, though far from the essence of the project.

The other two artists have been nominated for books. The irony of Cartagena is that A little guide to home ownership Ends 15 years of perpetuating countless urbanization of land in northern Mexico. Rapidly using the book model in which its title appears, it is a space-filled and visually extensive, reference image, illustration, landscape photography and advertisement. In this metaphorical mix, Cartagena is writing personal stories, including her brother-in-law’s struggle with the bureaucracy while trying to buy her own home. As far as Robert Adams’ isolated approach is concerned, the book addresses similar concerns, not least the environmental impact of urban development on the environment.

In his book سنتریا, Indian artist and activist Polomi Basu highlights the neglected conflict between the Indian state and the Maoist People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army, which consists of volunteers from a troubled indigenous community. Basu runs smoothly between traditional documentary documents and a high-low, almost hall-illusory view that reflects both the barbarism of the controversy and state propaganda that feeds half the truth and combines “facts”. It is a powerful work that uses documentary photography, while at the same time questioning its ability to deal with digitally complexities in exchange for modern geopolitics.

From Centria, in 2020, by Polomi Basu.

From Centria, in 2020, by Polomi Basu. Photographer: Polomi Basu, courtesy of Artist

Although the 2021 Deutsche Welle shortlist is to be commended for being truly international, questions remain about its accuracy as a reward for photography. In the last few years, important and challenging work has been created by artists whose main source is photography. Beach to Sohrab Hoora; Avocado by Libyo Jarkovoko; I was born by Carmen Winnett; Stephen Gail’s column; Somnima Nagnima by Zanil Maholi, just to name a few on the top of my head.

In this context, this year’s shortlists do not randomly and deliberately represent this medium. I have stated this in different ways in the past, but it seems worth repeating: the issue at stake here is not purely mantic, as some would argue, but it may be one of the definitions. ۔ How far can the Deutsche Barsi Prize go from photography and still claim to be a photography prize? Or, to put it another way, who is the Deutsche Welle Photography Prize for?


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