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Deana Lawson Wins One of the World’s Top Photography Prizes for Work That ‘Reframes the Black Experience’

Deana Lawson, a photographer whose work is currently the subject of a traveling survey in the U.S., has won the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize.

Though it only comes with £30,000 (about $36,600), the award is considered to be among the most important ones devoted to photography. It has previously been won by artists such as Trevor Paglen, Walid Raad, Juergen Teller, Cao Fei, and Andreas Gursky.

Lawson is best known for her portraits of Black men and women who are often posed in domestic settings. While these images may appear to be documentary ones, they tend to involve sitters who did not know each other before Lawson took their picture. Periodically, Lawson’s work has also involved ready-made imagery that she places alongside the pictures she herself has shot. She has also branched out into filmmaking as well.

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Exterior view of NYU Langone Medical

In recent years, Lawson’s work has received greater attention in the U.S. She won the Guggenheim Museum’s $100,000 Hugo Boss Prize in 2020, becoming the first photographer to take the award, and she has a show of her work now on view at MoMA PS1 in New York, which it co-organized with the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston.

Lawson won the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize for her 2020 show at the Kunsthalle Basel, which focused on states of chaos and order. Images from it later appeared at the Bienal de São Paulo and in her Guggenheim Museum show in 2021, held after winning the Hugo Boss Prize.

Brett Rogers, the director of London’s Photographers’ Gallery and chair of the prize’s jury this year, said in a statement, “Her work, which reframes and reclaims the Black experience, harnesses the traditional and the experimental and opens up a very unique connection between the everyday and the mystical. Her subject matter sits somewhere between the ‘here and now’ and the past, a person and a people, the staged and the naturalistic, in a manner which is not didactic or issue driven, but genuinely radical.”

Photographers Anastasia Samoylova, Gilles Peress, and Jo Ractliffe were also shortlisted for this year’s award.

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