Deana Lawson (b. 1979, Rochester, New York) has won the DBPFP22, for her exhibition Centropy, shown at Kunsthalle, Basel from 9 June - 11 October 2020.Explore here
Deana Lawson (b. 1979, Rochester, New York) has won the 2022 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2022 for her solo exhibition Centropy held at Kunsthalle, Basel, 9 Jun - 11 Oct 2020. The presentation featured large scale photographs encased in mirrored frames alongside holograms, 16mm projections, video works and smaller images printed on mirrors or decorated with rock crystals.
The jury were unanimous in their decision to award Lawson the prize, regarding her contribution towards photography to be both ground-breaking and urgent. They applauded her beautifully executed, inventive, complex and provocative approach to image making, which, while drawing on traditions of art history and photography, proposes a wholly original arena to reframe and reclaim the Black experience.
Her work and subject matter both harness and subvert the tropes of family photography and historical portraiture. The precisely choreographed, staged scenarios, sit somewhere between the classical and the avant-garde; fable and reality, the ‘here and now’ and the past, a person and a people, in a way that is not didactic but genuinely radical.
Through such strategies, Lawson defines a space for a community generally marginalised and misappropriated and assets an empowered space for exploring and contextualising intergenerational roles and relationships within the Black diaspora.
The images, while presenting seemingly familiar scenarios and environments are filled with unsettling elements and challenging narratives that encompass birth, pregnancy and death. Women, often naked or semi-clothed, frequently take centre stage in her work, alongside the presence of elders, totemic male figures and other symbolic characters such as the celestial child. The figures are generally situated in domestic settings embellished with icons, adornments and devotional objects that both reinforce and upend stereotypes while operating as ‘portals’ into a hidden or mystical world.
Lawson also uses holograms in her work and portrays natural phenomena such as galaxies and waterfall as a further way of signifying alternate realms or consciousness. Many of her images are also encased in thickly mirrored frames, which both reflect us as viewers but also locate us within the work.
The protagonists in her work are mostly strangers whom she has either met by chance or deliberately cast in a specific role to add to her “ever-expanding mythological extended family.” They fully inhabit the roles they 'play' adding to the overriding sense of creative kinship and empowerment inherent in the work.
Lawson’s process feels one of ongoing collaboration and personal and political enquiry which pushes the boundaries of documentary and fiction to create a powerful new reality lying somewhere between the quotidian and the divine.
The presentation at The Photographers’ Gallery marks her first institutional showing in the UK
Deana Lawson was announced as the 2022 winner of the prestigious £30,000 prize at a special ceremony at The Photographers’ Gallery by BBC News Culture Editor, Katie Razzall on Thursday 12 May 2022.
The influential and longstanding prize, established by the Gallery in 1996 and presented in collaboration with the Deutsche Börse Group since 2005 and the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation since 2016, rewards artists and projects felt to have made a significant and original contribution to the medium of photography over the preceding 12 months.
The jury of the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2022 comprised: Yto Barrada, artist; Jessica Dimson, The New York Times Deputy Director of Photography; Yasufumi Nakamori, Tate Modern’s International Art (Photography) Senior Curator; Anne-Marie Beckmann, Director, Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation; and Brett Rogers, OBE, Director, The Photographers’ Gallery, as voting chair.