Susan Meiselas wins the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2019
The acclaimed documentary photographer, Susan Meiselas, whose career spans five decades, was awarded the prestigious £30,000 prize at an evening ceremony held at The Photographers’ Gallery on Thursday 16 May.
The award was presented by the Turkish/British award-winning writer and activist, Elif Shafak, who, before making the announcement, talked passionately about the need for us all to remain connected to art, especially in times of division and intolerance.
Meiselas was nominated for her European retrospective Mediations held at Jeu de Paume, Paris in 2018. The 2019 jury considered Meiselas to have made a consistently outstanding contribution to the medium of photography, exemplifying a unique commitment and personal investment in the stories, histories and communities she documents, and enabling a critical revision to the possibilities of documentary photography that has left an indelible mark on the photographic landscape.
Meiselas is widely acknowledged for her work in the conflict zones of Central America (1978–1983), and in particular for her powerful photographs of the Nicaraguan revolution. Meiselas favours an immersive approach, often collaborating with the communities she photographs over long periods of time, and focusing on a wide range of challenging issues from ethnic and religious conflicts, human rights violations and the sex industry. Mediations was the most comprehensive European retrospective of Meiselas’ work to date, and brought together series’ from the 1970s to the present day.
For the presentation as part of the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize exhibition at the Gallery, Meiselas chose to show the body of work, Kurdistan/akaKurdistan, which documents a long-term engagement with the Kurdish dispora. In 1991, after the genocidal Anfal campaign against the Iraqi Kurds, Meiselas began to photograph destroyed villages, mass graves and exhumations and she continues to this day to gather visual evidence to give shape to a collective memory, which evolved from a book, to a website akaKurdistan.com to a StoryMap in the exhibition space. Ultimately this ongoing project offers a layered, lived history of Kurdistan, driven by the momentum of its contributors.
The 2019 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize jury comprised:
Sunil Gupta, Artist, Writer, Activist and Curator; Diane Dufour, Director of Le Bal, Paris; Felix Hoffmann, Chief Curator at C/O Berlin; Anne-Marie Beckmann, Director, Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation, Frankfurt; Brett Rogers OBE, Director, The Photographers’ Gallery, London as the non-voting chair.
The work of all 2019 shortlisted artists, Laia Abril, Arwed Messmer, Susan Meiselas and Mark Ruwedel, remains on display at The Photographers’ Gallery until 2 June 2019.
The show will then tour to the Deutsche Börse's headquarters in Eschborn/Frankfurt from 14 June until 23 August 2019.