Dana Lixenberg of the Netherlands has won the 2017 edition of the internationally recognised Deutsche Börse competition with her long-term photography project capturing a multi-faceted portrait of the residents and community of the Imperial Courts housing project in Watts, Los Angeles.
Titled Imperial Courts (1993 – 2015), the project began back in 1993 in the aftermath of riots sparked by the infamous beating of Rodney King by the LAPD, and charts the community of the area as it returned from the scene of violent protest back to an underserved and often invisible community.
Following a controlled and formal photographic style that she calls “slowing things down”, Lixenberg expanded and revisited her project over the following 22 years as she followed the trajectories of individual lives in the neighbourhood. In her later visits, she took to bringing audio and video recording equipment to keep documenting the conversation and ambience of the area, capturing the complex effect that passing time has had on the community.
In addition to existing as a physical photo project, Imperial Courts (1993 – 2015) also exists as a web documentary, developed in partnership with Lixenberg’s collaborator Eefje Blankevoort. Visit www.imperialcourtsproject.com to see the online version.
Writing about Lixenberg’s winning series, Brett Rogers of the Photographer’s Gallery says: “This comprehensive and measured series impressed all of the judges through its affirmation of photography’s power to address important ideas through pure image. Lixenberg’s work is simultaneously understated and emphatic, reflecting a cool sobriety, which allows her subjects to own the gaze and their contexts without sentimentality or grandiosity. Originally presented in book format, each portrait operates as a self-contained story. Dana Lixenberg has expertly harnessed the photographic medium to rethink stereotypical representation and empower a community with direct voice and visibility.”
As grand prize-winner, Lixenberg will be awarded £30,000. Her work is currently being exhibited with the other shortlisted photographers in London until 11 June, at which point it will embark on a tour to Frankfurt and New York.
The Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize is a annual award, originally established by the Photographer’s Gallery in 1997. The award is intended to honour a living photographer, of any nationality, for a specific body of work in an exhibition or publication format in Europe, which is felt to have significantly contributed to the medium of photography in the previous year. 2017 marks the twentieth year of the prestigious competition.