Roe Ethridge is one of four finalists for the annual Deutsche Borse Prize, given annually by The Photographers Gallery in London. Along with Ethridge, the other finalists are Thomas Demand, Jim Goldberg, and Elad Lassry.
The Gallery has a show of all four photographers' work up now through May 1st, 2011, at Ambika P3 at the University of Westminster, in London. The Gallery's website has lots of good information about the Prize and about the photographers, as well as links to video interviews with each photographer.
The Deutsche Borse Prize is worth about $50, 000, a good chunk of change, which is awarded to "a living photographer, of any nationality, who has made the most significant contribution, in exhibition or publication format, to the medium of photography in Europe over the previous year."
The winner will be announced toward the end of April. We will keep you posted.
For now, its interesting that the show has kicked up a bit of controversy in London. Sean O'Hagan, who writes about photography for the Guardian newspaper, reports that Magnum photographer Chris Steele-Perkins has castigated the gallery for its "very, very narrow definition of photography" and its "often mediocre representation of that practice".
O'Hagan continues, "In a follow-up statement, Steele-Perkins wrote: "I am angry that Photographers' Gallery has become a misnomer. It is not about photography or photographers, it is about a narrow thread of photographic curation that is frequently dull, and/or poorly conceived."
O'Hagan notes that other British photographers have joined with Steele-Perkings in criticizing the Gallery for its narrow focus. O'Hagan notes that the fuss is about the fact that the work of all four of the short-listed Prize photographers practice conceptual photography, which he feels is "a genre guaranteed to raise the hackles of the public – and the many photographers who value practice over theory – as much as it generates reams of theoretical jargon by its critical champions."
O'Hagan's further thoughts on conceptual photography are here. In his view, conceptual photography is photography that sets out to "interrogate the photographic medium." The controversy has gotten the attention of Joerg Colberg over on the Conscencious blog, who says that a Prize is a Prize and not worth arguing about, although he admits he is "not the biggest fan of conceptual photography, because for me, it’s usually too obvious."
We had some discussion about conceptual photography on this blog last week, about the work of Maury Gortemiller. O'Hagan's definition of conceptual photography is way off, in my view. Photography can always be said to engage in the interrogation of the photographic medium, given that photography as a new medium of artistic expression is always discovering afresh what it can do. As, mostly, a modern art form, it is part of modern art's inherent questioning and reinvention of the medium of its practice.
To me, the practice of conceptual photography is about deciding in advance the issues (concepts?) one wants to address in a photograph, as opposed to the documentary or photojournalistic tradition, in which one goes out with a camera to see what the world has to offer.
I think conceptual photography is a major discipline of photography taught in many MFA programs today, and as I said in the earlier conversations the issue for me is not conceptual photography so much as it is the way some practitioners of conceptual photography cloud their work in a jargon that obscures their photographic achievement, restricting the audience for their work to those who can penetrate the language of their Artist's Statements.
We will keep up with this controversy in England and report on any new developments.