Found Art Found: John Stezaker’s Deutsche Borse Photography Prize

I am in Costa, and Claire Maguire‘s Sword and Shield in playing on the speakers In the top left corner. ‘And we don’t speak, so we’re left in constant silence’. I reach over to grab my notebook, and as I take it out of my bag, it flips open, and the Deutsche Borse photography Prize brochure falls on the floor. ‘I’m not afraid, of danger in the dark’. I flip it open, and as I take my first sip of the scorching hot hazelnut latte, I realise I am squinting, trying to remember a constant thought that run through me when I was in the exhibition. ‘You have the shield, I’ll take the sword’. I hope John Stezaker wins, I whisper, and I open a new safari tab to google who won the award.

The Deutsche Borse Photography Prize rewards a living photographer for a body of work that made a significant contribution to European photography within the period of a year. The photographers this year were Pieter Hugo from South Africa, Rinko Kawauchi from Japan, Christopher Williams from the United States, and John Stezaker from the United Kingdom.

You see, I had a soft spot for John Stezaker‘s work from the first moment I saw it. I was absent-mindedly leafing through a magazine, when I stumbled on one of his pictures. I stopped on the page, my eyes focusing on the page, my fingers touching the surface as if I was expecting it to have a different texture. His work has a genuinely remarkable power that is hard to explain. It almost seems that his effortless technique is a result of a pair of scissors, a tube of glue and a bunch of photocopies. But come a step closer; look again; look at the precision, the method, the combination, the duality, the thought behind it.

Of course, Stezaker had stiff competition for the award. Pieter Hugo‘s work had a visceral quality to it, a strength that was communicated by the steely determination in his subjects’ eyes and the destruct that they had to cause in their physical landscape. He took pictures of the dumping grounds for technological and industrial waste on the outskirts of Ghana, and portraits of the young slum-dwellers that survive through the processing and burning of the discarded material.

Rinko Kawauchi on the other hand examined the mundane through a lens that transforms it into extraordinary. She explored themes of life, death, and everything in between with a soft palette and a range of editing techniques.

Christopher Williams showcased images of objects like cameras, models, vehicles and other technical apparatus with a clear reference to the advertising world, and an overarching theme of photography as a form of reality.

So, why was I supporting Stezaker? First of all, I found the idea that a person that has not taken a single of the pictures he is exhibiting but still is considered for a photography award extremely interesting. You also know my love for found art, and the depiction of dualities through different mediums; and that is exactly what he is doing: he conveys a new meaning by reconstructing the picture. He is redefining its purpose instead of creating it. He toys around with form, format and the definition of art.

A few seconds later I see the article announcing the winner. Stezaker got the prize. I take another gulp of my (still hot) latte, and put the brochure back in my notebook. Found art won. Art can be found anywhere; in the everyday, in the moment, in the extraordinary that is disguised like a second in time. Just cut, paste, and create it.



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