Now in its 22nd year, this highly regarded annual prize recognises artists and projects that have made a significant contribution to photography over the previous 12 months in Europe.
The four artists shortlisted for the 2019 prize are Laia Abril, Susan Meiselas, Arwed Messmer and Mark Ruwedel. Collectively their projects explore state and gender politics, social injustice, human rights and conceptual approaches to image making.
Laia Abril's On Abortion is a visual research project that draws on the past, present and current history of abortion to highlight the continuing erosion of women’s reproductive rights. Her collection of visual, audio and textual evidence graphically represents the consequences of unsafe procedures. It raises complex questions around the ethics and morality involved in any consideration of this subject, while exposing the myriad social triggers, stigmas and taboos that still persist around abortion and female health.
Susan Meiselas is a leading documentary photographer, widely acknowledged for her work in conflict zones of Central America (1978–1983), and in particular for her powerful photographs of the Nicaraguan revolution. Favouring an immersive approach, she often collaborates with her subjects over long periods of time, and has focused on a wide range of challenging issues from ethnic and religious conflicts, human rights issues and the sex industry.
Arwed Messmer has been nominated for his exhibition reflecting on the trajectory of the Red Army Faction (RAF), a far-left extremist organisation which formed in Germany in 1970. By repurposing and recontextualising the tools and materials commonly used in police investigations and crime-scene reconstructions, Messmer’s ‘narrative’ examines how images once used to collect evidence in criminal cases can now provide a different insight into our understanding of history.
Having spent many years photographing across North America, Mark Ruwedel’s work explores how geological, historical and political events leave their marks on the landscape. Merging documentary and conceptual methods of image making, often repeatedly photographing the same subject matter, Ruwedel also finds influence in land art echoed in his expansive images of abandoned railways, nuclear testing sites and empty desert homes.
The winner will be announced at an award ceremony held at The Photographers’ Gallery on 16 May 2019.