You don’t expect to see a restored vintage car on the 5th floor of a Soho gallery… but that’s exactly what greets you as the lift doors open on the top floor of The Photographers Gallery. Dutch artist Erik Kessels’ Fiat 500 displayed alongside polaroid and larger scale photographic images on both the floor (those taken from above) and hanging on walls form his ‘Unfinished Father’ body of work, which is just one of four finalists in this year’s Deutsche Borse Photography Foundation Prize. Behind Kessels’ work, the space darkens and a huge projection of yellow, orange and red broken by a black silhouette introduce Laura El-Tantawy’s entry ‘In The Shadow of the Pyramids’. This image has a painterly quality to it and does not immediately suggest riots (more specifically the Egyptian revolution of 2011) however as you move around this image, additional beautiful but harrowing portraits and sounds of the crowd intermingled with the artists voice annotate the socio-political conditions leading to the overthrow of Mubarak. The floor below displays the two other finalists work; German artist Tobias Zielony and American artist Trevor Paglen. Zielony’s ‘The Citizen’ documents African migrants who arrived in Germany and protested about restrictions placed on them, alongside related newspaper articles. Similarly ‘The Octopus’ shows Paglen tackling a political theme, this time mass surveillance and data collection through his photographs of federal and military outposts, underwater fibre-optic cables and passing drones which expose these clandestine practices and raise questions about contemporary cultural politics. An annex on the 4th floor contains a plasma screen and headphones with artist interviews, as well as blue polling cards where visitors can pick their winner and offer an explanation behind their choice. Whilst Laura is undoubtedly my favourite, having seen the finalists’ work and read other visitors’ comments, it will be interesting to hear who is chosen at this years’ prize-winner in June.
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