Deana Lawson Wins the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2022

Thursday, May 12, 2022
Deana Lawson Wins the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2022

The photographer was announced as the 2022 winner of the prestigious £30,000 prize at a special ceremony at The Photographers’ Gallery (TPG), London by BBC News Culture Editor, Katie Razzall,

The photographer was announced as the 2022 winner of the prestigious £30,000 prize at a special ceremony at The Photographers’ Gallery (TPG), London by BBC News Culture Editor, Katie Razzall, on Thursday 12 May 2022.

The influential prize, which has been presented in partnership with the Deutsche Börse Group since 2005, rewards artists and projects recognised as having made the most significant contribution to the world of photography over the preceding 12 months.

Deana Lawson (b. 1979, Rochester, New York) was awarded the prize for her solo exhibition Centropy at Kunsthalle Basel (9 June – 11 October 2020).

Lawson presents a distinctive and provocative approach to image-making, which while drawing on art history, as well as the wider landscape and traditions of photography, proposes a wholly original arena to reframe and reclaim the Black experience. Her interest lies in exploring the space held by communities and individuals and seeks to assert a position within an ever-shifting terrain of racial and ecological disorder for which she evokes a range of strategies.

Her subject matter is carefully choreographed and harnesses the tropes of family photographs to explore intergenerational relationships and their effects within Black culture. She frequently positions women as central protagonists, alongside the presence of elders, totemic male figures, and symbolic or archetypal characters such as the celestial child. While her figures are often shown in apparently familiar domestic settings, the images contain unsettling elements which function as what the artist calls ‘portals’ into other worlds, or portray scenes of death or birth. She also harnesses natural phenomena such as waterfalls, galaxies and crystals to convey an entity or realm beyond our present consciousness.

Though the majority of her subjects are strangers cast specifically for the works, there is an intimacy to her portraits and seeming familiarity between the characters, whom Lawson describes as a mythological extended family.

The presentation at The Photographers’ Gallery marks her first institutional show in the UK. Large-scale photographs spanning 2013 – 2020 are encased in mirrored frames to reflect and utilise light and presented alongside holograms and rough-hewn blocks of crystal. 

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.

Brett Rogers OBE, Director, The Photographers’ Gallery and Chair of Jury said:

“Deana Lawson is a deserved winner of this year’s prize not least for the sheer inventiveness and complexity of her approach to image making. Her work, which reframes and reclaims the Black experience, harnesses the traditional and the experimental and opens up a very unique connection between the everyday and the mystical. Her subject matter sits somewhere between the ‘here and now’ and the past, a person and a people, the staged and the naturalistic, in a manner which is not didactic or issue driven, but genuinely radical.

The boldness of her vision and the empowered sensibility she brings to her protagonists is clearly the result of a carefully nuanced collaboration with her cast of ‘family’ members, which places her in a rare position of partner or narrator rather than auteur. Huge congratulations from myself and my fellow jurors. I also want to acknowledge the extraordinary work and talent of fellow shortlisted artists, Anastasia Samoylova, Gilles Peress and Jo Ractliffe. Thank you for allowing us to present your work as part of this year’s exhibition and prize.”

Anne-Marie Beckmann, Director, Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation, said:

“I am delighted to announce Deana Lawson as this year’s winner. While she is grounded in the traditions of photography and in many ways quite classical, her images offer up new possibilities for both the medium and its reception. Interrogating the position of the black body in visual culture and playing with tropes such as family portraiture, artifice and nature, she takes the personal and makes it political, forcing an often- unsettling contemplation of how and what we see.

I wish to extend further congratulations and enormous thanks to all of the shortlisted artists whose projects so powerfully exemplify the ability of photography to address such important issues as conflict, trauma, legacy and politics, with so much focus and commitment.”

The exhibition showcasing the four shortlisted artists for 2022 – Anastasia Samoylova, Jo Ractliffe, Deana Lawson and Gilles Peress – has been curated by TPG’s Katrina Schwarz and remains on display at The Photographers’ Gallery until 12 June 2022. The exhibition will then tour to Deutsche Börse’s headquarters in Eschborn/Frankfurt from 30 June 2022, home to an internationally renowned collection of contemporary photography, comprising more than 2,200 works by around 150 artists from 30 nations.

This leading Photography Prize celebrates ground-breaking artists at an international scale, highlighting unique creative developments and innovations within contemporary photography. In showcasing four finalists and awarding a winner amongst these each year, the prize has enabled extraordinary photography to be acknowledged and praised both within the industry and by the wider public, while capturing, reflecting upon and questioning the ever-evolving nature of the medium.


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Roman Pyatkovka, “VELVET SADNESS”, (1996), photograph glued on velvet passe-partout (paper).

Roman Pyatkovka, “VELVET SADNESS”, (1996), photograph glued on velvet passe-partout (paper).


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