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Goldberg surely?

© Jim Goldberg / Magnum Photos

This year’s Deutsche Börse Photography Prize is an interesting challenge in comparing work from the wide range of approaches which constitute contemporary photography. Sontag, among others, pointed out that common parlance has it that photographers take photographs and artists make drawing and paintings. Well, the common link in the work at the Photographers’ Gallery shortlist show is that it is all made. Perhaps surprisingly this also applies to work of Jim Godberg whose project Open See documents the experience of migration. Unlike the structured third person approach of Alixandra Fazzina, Goldberg layers images, video and text, emphasising both the forces that provide the motive power for migration and the fragility and enterprise of the participants.
The exhibition is dominated by a multi-part print of a man scavenging a dead goat from a rubbish dump in Bangladesh. Classic documentary photography from a distance which reveals a reflection on migration and literacy.
© Roe Ethridge/ Courtesy of Greengrassi London/ Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York
© Roe Ethridge/ Courtesy of Greengrassi London/ Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York

By contrast Roe Etheridge’s work has ludic intent, and plays with notions of femininity. He says that there is a dialogue between his commercial and fine art work. His works crowds with references – from Caravaggio in his Old Fruit to Degas in Ballet Studio above. His ‘Thanksgiving 1984‘ is a veritable Where’s Wally of visual puns and notes, from the prominently displayed left hand without a ring to heart pendant, the improbably named tumbler and schoolboyish arrangement of aubergine and tomato with lettuce pubic hair. Clever certainly, but beyond that?
Heldenorgel, 2009 © Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn / DACS, London

Thomas Demand trained as a sculptor and his images are literally constructed, first a image is found or captured and then a carefully constructed paper model is built specifically to be photographed. In his single image, the organ above is displayed against wallpaper to look like curtains – whether it works without the backstory is open to question. Once you know it is an image of a model of an organ built by former soldiers from the First World War and played every day for 80 years it takes on a different significance – or did for me.
© Elad Lassry/ Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

Finally Elad Lassry says his work asks ‘what is a picture in the 21st Century?’ Have a look here and decide for yourself.
So it has to be Goldberg, surely?
Jose Navarro will be running a photography study day in London on 15 April which will include a visit to Deutsche Börse Photography Prize exhibition – full details will be on WeAreOCA tomorrow
Finally, before someone points it out – I don’t have a good record of forecasting prize winners

Posted by author: Genevieve Sioka
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17 thoughts on “Goldberg surely?

  • It has to be remembered what the prize is awarded for, “The Deutsche Börse Photography Prize aims to reward a contemporary photographer of any nationality, who has made the most significant contribution (exhibition or publication) to the medium of photography in Europe in the previous year.” see this
    The Demand exhibition has received some considerable critical prize already and that either means he will win or that he will definitely not 🙂
    Goldberg is probably nearest to any sort of documentary tradition (I winder how much that sways you Gareth?) and Lassry deals with that warhorse of Post-modernism; memory. Etheridge is so all over the place that he doesn’t stand a chance of pleasing anyone…so it’s Etheridge then 🙂

    • ‘Goldberg is probably nearest to any sort of documentary tradition – I winder how much that sways you Gareth?’
      A good question Peter and certainly something I was aware of before visiting the show yesterday. Possibly being aware of the risk and bearing that in mind the best one can do – I know I like documentary photography, so was ready to like the Goldberg work. But actually…the thing I like about the Goldberg work is the way he takes a new approach – letting the subjects reveal their stories, not the standard captions at the side but layered into the images. The Press Image from the Photographers’ Gallery above doesn’t reveal this – it is a fabulous image but atypical of the show.
      But in the end, let’s face it – you’re po-mo and I’m trying to pick my way though the aftermath 🙂

  • I also wanted to give my prediction on this year’s winner. So I did some reverse engineering to find out how the Börse Photography Prize machine works. I looked at the winners over the last few years, looked for patterns and trends, and tried to replicate that with this year’s shortlisted candidates. What I found out is that amongst the predominantly documentary-based winners there are some who seem to be coming from a completely different place.
    And this year the odd one out seems to be Ethridge. So I’m with Peter on this one! My second choice is Demand. Thinking about it…that could be Lassry too.
    OK, I’ll predict who is NOT going to win. Golberg!

  • So we all think Goldberg is probably the best then 🙂
    The layering idea is one that appeals to me greatly, and if there is a move away from the post-modern idea of art-as-simulacrum and, in Hal Foster’s words, the Return of the Real (I really recommend this book to all interested in where art might be going after post-modernism) then this is a way of working that has much to recommend it.

  • Is the forum getting some automated comments? Perhaps it’s time to add one of those type the random text boxes to deter them??

    • Yes, the odd one does seem to sneak through Rob – just zapped the one you probably noticed. On the positive side, the software has zapped more than 9000 before they appeared – and that’s just in the last two months.

  • Well thank goodness for that – press release from the Photographers’ Gallery:
    Jim Goldberg (b.1953, USA) has won the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2011, which marks the 15th year of the Prize and the 40th anniversary of The Photographers’ Gallery.
    Brett Rogers said, on behalf of the Jury: ‘Due to the breadth of the Award criteria, the Jury felt that any one of the four nominees could have been the winner. They however awarded the Prize to Jim Goldberg for Open See, acclaiming its timely and inventive approach to documentary practice, at the heart of which lies for him co-authorship, a form of creative collaboration allowing these individuals to tell their own stories.’

    • Personally, I am glad Goldberg was pronounced the winner because although I liked all the entries, Goldberg’s was the one that spoke to me. Perhaps its’ meaning was more obvious and clear than the others who seemed to be more aesthetically based.

  • An interesting (and excellent in my opinion) result given that the buzz was that Demand was the runaway favourite! I am very keen on Demand’s work but it is better suited to judgement in terms of the wider practice of fine art than in the narrower confines of photography.
    I wonder if this signals a renewal of the segregation of artistic endeavour by medium (I hope not) or a recognition that one of the few unique attributes of photography as a practice is its ‘the camera never lies’ connotation? We all know it isn’t true but nevertheless the idea is so engrained that a photographer with an anthropological bent or social awareness etc. can use it to make their images speak loudly to us. Some readings of post-modernism has ridiculed this idea but the demise of PM should revive the debate about the role of documentary photography and allow fine artists using photography as their preferred medium (Demand for example) to pursue their practice without being unrealistically compared to photo-journalists, to the great advantage of us all.

    • I’ve wondered if photography is Demand’s preferred medium or is it more the model-making? The models must take hundreds of hours to create and maybe he takes pleasure in that. At least, it must be an important part of his process psychologically. It’s the sort of activity like drawing and painting that can bring about a state of flow — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_(psychology)
      I don’t know much about him but became interested in him last year because of a video still of a raindrop which for some reason is amazingly fascinating.

  • Well, I’m not surprised Goldberg won. Just wondering what difference it might have made if there hadn’t been any comments written on the images by the subjects. Would it have been as interesting to view?

    • Fascinating question Catherine. I tend to think the comments make the work special. There are others who have addressed the issue of migration very successfully I think, like Alixandra Fazzina, but for me Goldberg’s images have a bigger emotional impact because there is something more of the subject’s story in them (on them).

  • Jim Goldberg’s team have just produced an interesting impressionistic video based on his book ‘Raised by Wolves’ using some of his original audio and some new video. Well worth a watch.

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