How Britain’s John Stezaker won the Deutsche Borse Prize

Sep 5, 2012

Stezaker’s ‘marvellous, funny’ photo-montages stand out in diverse prize show

What you need to know
The Deutsche Borse Prize exhibition showcases a selection of work by the four photographic artists shortlisted for the £30,000 annual prize. Each artist must have presented an exhibition or publication in Europe in the previous year. 

The featured artists are South African Pieter Hugo, Japanese Rinko Kawauchi, Brit John Stezaker and American Christopher Williams. This year's prize has been awarded to John Stezaker for his composite images created from found photographs, Hollywood publicity photos and postcards.
Other works include Hugo’s portraits taken in a dumpsite for computer waste in Ghana, Kawauchi’s poetic images evoking dreams and memory and Williams’s pictures of technical apparatus.  
The exhibition runs until 9 September at the Photographers’ Gallery, 16 Ramillies Street, London W1.
What the critics like
The works reflect the current diversity in photography, says Sue Steward in the Evening Standard, from the camera-less creations of Stezaker, to variations on classic documentary from Hugo and the detached conceptualism of Williams. But Kawauchi’s work is “pure poetry” which converts the ordinariness of a dead bird or a view through a car windscreen into “mesmerising faded memories”.
John Stezaker is the best image-maker here, says Adrian Searle in The Guardian. He doesn’t take his own photos, but has a great eye and sensibility. His hand-cut collages evoke “marvellous, funny, disturbing androgynies” and apparent psychological crises.

Hugo’s monumental Ghana portraits reinforce your faith in the still photograph, says Florence Waters in The Daily Telegraph, “encapsulating the sad complexities of Africa with such subtle perfection”.
What they don’t like
Christopher Williams’s images are abstruse to the point of being ridiculous, says Tabish Khan for the Londonist. How his photographs relate to the Cold War, as he claims, is beyond us and clearly also the gallery who’ve written that his work ‘defies an easy reading’.

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