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Introducing the four shortlisted artists from this year’s Deutsche Börse Photography Prize
By Finn Blythe | Art | 22 June 2021

Above image: Cao Fei Nova, 2019 © Cao Fei Courtesy of artist, Vitamin Creative Space and Sprüth Magers

For its 25th anniversary edition, the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize exhibition will show the work of four shortlisted artists in an exhibition opening at The Photographers Gallery this week. From China, Algeria, India and Mexico this year’s prize brings together projects by Poulomi Basu, Alejandro Cartagena, Cao Fei and Zineb Sedira for a three-month exhibition culminating with the announcement of the competition’s winner and recipient of its £30,000 prize.

Curated by TPG’s Anna Dannemann, the exhibition’s urgent and socially engaged themes will be supplemented by an accompanying programme of talks and events, including presentations from all the shortlisted artists and a fully illustrated catalogue of newly commissioned essays on each series. Below we introduce the artist and their nominated work.

Poulomi Basu

Poulomi Basu is an Indian artist, photographer and social activist shortlisted for her multi-award-winning series Centralia that she began in 2010. Shot in the remote forests of central India, Centralia is, in the artist’s own words, “A journey into the heart of darkness”. The series sheds light on a long-standing but largely unreported conflict in the region between communities of indigenous people fighting under the People’s Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA) and the Indian state.

Using a broad range of photographic techniques that she combines with sourced images – everything from mugshots to photographs of violent crime scenes – Basu’s project is at the centre of her activism. Focusing on issues of gender, class and environmental damage, Centralia advocates against local issues with a global resonance.


Visit Poulomi Basu’s website here

Alejandro Cartagena

Under the beating sun and pristine blue skies of Alejandro Cartagena’s series A Small Guide to Homeownership, the Mexican-born photographer documents the cycle of urban growth and all that comes with it. Shot over thirteen years, the series began with Cartagena’s Fragmented Cities series that he began in 2005, exploring how rapid suburbinisation of the Monterrey metro area in northern Mexico impacted the physical and social landscape of the city.

Through Cartagena’s lens, the city is shown as a single organism, comprised of individual organs that are all connected and contingent upon each other. Change to one, be it positive or negative, is felt across the entire organism, through its people, buildings, landscapes and collective identity.


Visit Alejandro Cartagena’s website here

Cao Fei

Chinese multi-media artist Cao Fei will present a series of photographs alongside a feature length film, Nova, that she first showed at her Blueprints exhibition at London’s Serpentine Gallery last year. Based in Beijing, Fei’s work confronts central issues of automation, virtuality and rapid technological development for multi-sensory installations that flicker between reality and virtual, utopic and dystopic.

At the centre of these visceral, mixed-media displays, Fei confronts key moments in China’s history, as well as its more contemporary issues concerning mechanised labour and breakneck urbanisation. Having produced films virtually her entire career, Nova builds upon recurring themes within Fei’s oeuvre of alienation and mass consumerism to tell a story of a computer scientist trying to turn humans into digital mediums.


Visit Cao Fei’s website here

Zineb Sedira

In her immersive, four-part installation Standing Here Wandering Which Way To Go, French-Algerian artist Zineb Sedira presents a portal through time and space. Viewers are transported to the heady days of 1960’s and 70s Algiers, Algeria, which was then a hub for revolutionaries harbouring grand hopes for the future.

Through archive found film, photo montages and diorama models, including a full-scale replica of the artist’s living room and a recreation of her vinyl collection, Sedira gives us a taste of the fervent optimism and creative energy that blossomed following Algeria’s fight for independence from 1954-62. Having grown up in Paris, the artist, who will represent France at the 2022 Venice Biennale, is one of several internationally acclaimed contemporary voices investigating the legacy of French colonialism through collective memory and lived experience.


Visit Zineb Sadira’s website here

The Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2021 Exhibition opens at The Photographers’ Gallery, London from 25th June until 26th September 2021. The winner of the £30,000 prize will be announced at a special award ceremony held at The Photographers’ Gallery on Thursday 9 September. For more details click here

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