Taymour Abdullah, 15, the only survivor of village execution, shows his bullet wound, Arbil, Northern Iraq, December, 1991 © Susan MeiselasSusan Meiselas has won this year’s Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize for her first European retrospective Mediations at Jeu de Paume, Paris 2018.

The Magnum photographer was announced as the 2019 winner of the £30,000 prize at a special award ceremony at The Photographers’ Gallery in London last night by British Turkish award-winning writer and activist Elif Shafak.

Meiselas was deemed to have made a consistently outstanding contribution to photography, influencing the way that audiences encounter and understand the form and exemplifying a commitment and personal investment to her subject matter and subjects that have left an indelible mark on the history of photography.

A leading documentary photographer, Meiselas is widely acknowledged for her work in the conflict zones of Central America (1978–1983), and in particular for her powerful photographs of the Nicaraguan revolution.

Drawing on more than four decades of experience photographing around the world, she favours an immersive approach, often collaborating with the communities she photographs over long periods of time and has focused on a wide range of challenging issues from ethnic and religious conflicts, human rights issues to the sex industry. ‘Mediations’ was the most comprehensive European retrospective of Meiselas’ work to date, which brought together series’ from the 1970s to the present day.

Villagers watch exhumation at a former Iraqi military headquarters outside Sulaymaniyah, Northern Iraq, 1991 © Susan Meiselas

Villagers watch exhumation at a former Iraqi military headquarters outside Sulaymaniyah, Northern Iraq, 1991 © Susan Meiselas

 

Photographs of 20-year-old Kamaran Abdullah Saber are held by his family at Saiwan Hill cemetery. He was killed in July 1991 during a student demonstration against Saddam Hussein, Kurdistan, Northern Iraq, 1991 © Susan Meiselas

Photographs of 20-year-old Kamaran Abdullah Saber are held by his family at Saiwan Hill cemetery. He was killed in July 1991 during a student demonstration against Saddam Hussein, Kurdistan, Northern Iraq, 1991 © Susan Meiselas

 

For The Photographers’ Gallery exhibition, Meiselas chose to present her long-term engagement with the Kurdish diaspora. Kurdistan/akaKurdistan began with a trip the photographer took to capture Anfal genocide against the Iraqi Kurds in 1991 and began a project offering a layered, lived history of Kurdistan, driven by the momentum of its contributors with whom she continues to collaborate with.

Brett Rogers OBE, director of The Photographers’ Gallery and chair of the jury, said: “Susan’s consistent approach to the medium and her personal investment in the stories, histories and communities she documents, exemplifies a critical revision to the possibilities of documentary photography. It is one that proposes a sustainable and on-going relationship with the people and their contexts and feels especially relevant and resonant today.”

Dee and Lisa on Mott Street, Little Italy, New York, 1976 © Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

Dee and Lisa on Mott Street, Little Italy, New York, 1976 © Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

 

Lena on the Bally Box. USA. Essex Junction, Vermont, 1973 © Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

Lena on the Bally Box. USA. Essex Junction, Vermont, 1973 © Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

 

The work of all 2019 shortlisted artists, Laia Abril, Arwed Messmer, Susan Meiselas and Mark Ruwedel, remains on display at The Photographers’ Gallery until 2 June 2019. The show will then tour to the Deutsche Börse’s headquarters in Eschborn/Frankfurt from 14 June until 23 August 2019. For more information, visit tpg.org.uk.

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Tora Baker

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