To celebrate this year’s distinguished Deutsche Börse award, we asked former astrophysicist-cum-photography expert, and the man behind cult blog Conscientious, Jörg Colberg, to curate a selection of images inspired by the work of this year’s nominees: Thomas Demand, Jim Goldberg, Roe Ethridge and Elad Lassry. “Photographs now move freely between art, commerce and the news. We don’t trust them any longer, because they might not be real,” says Colberg. “The nominees toy with that,” he adds. Each year the prize recognizes a European photographer who has made a significant contribution to the medium; 2011’s judging panel includes Marloes Krijnen, founding director of Amsterdam’s Foam_Fotografiemuseum, and fine art photographer Joel Sternfeld. Colberg talked us through his selections.
“Lipstick” by Elad Lassry: Lassry's display of lipsticks could be right out of an advert, but there is something that doesn't feel right. It's using the conventions of advertising photography and playing with them.
Iranian missiles: Disseminated by an Iranian news agency, the original image (left), was revealed to be a fake (in reality, only three missiles were launched, as opposed to the four pictured). Leave it to the internet to take the ball and run with it: to the right, two versions made by internet users. If images lie, at least tell a fantastic lie.
“Fake Flowers in Full Color” by Jaap Scheeren and Hans Gremmen: Every photograph consists of four colors (magenta, black, yellow and cyan) that are printed one on top of the other to produce the final image. Scheeren and Gremmen took four sets of white plastic flowers, spray-painted each in one of the basic printing colors, photographed them, and then superimposed the photographs, raising questions about the reality of the image itself. The final image is constructed like a printed image, but it’s artificial, as the parts don’t match.
“Gate” by Thomas Demand: On the left, a surveillance video capture from Boston's airport, showing two of the 9/11 hijackers who had just passed security. Reacting to the image, artist Thomas Demand created "Gate" (right). Building a cardboard set of the security area and photographing it, Demand asks us to think about how what we see acquires meaning by recreating it.
“Jpeg” by Thomas Ruff: Artist Thomas Ruff shows a photograph of a natural disaster, taking a small thumbnail from the web and enlarging it so that it appears artificial. Ruff is forcing us to look at the fact that what we look at online only looks real as tiny thumbnails.
Philip-Lorca diCorcia for W magazine, September 1997: This image combines DiCorcia's photographic language,
informed by years in the art world, with the necessities of a fashion photograph. The only difference here is that the models wear fancy clothes. If fashion photography can be art, can art be fashion photography?
Useful Photography, issue 8: The premise of Dutch Magazine Useful Photography is to take images from mundane surroundings and present them outside of their context, asking us to look at photographs we usually don't notice—the photographic equivalent of elevator music—and to see them as art. These images are taken from pornographic movies; the falsity is enhanced by using stills as actual photographs.