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Shortlist Announced for Prestigious Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize

Themes of mass surveillance and African refugees surface among four photographers shortlisted for one of the industry's top photography prizes

Four photographers, artists and curators – Laura El-Tantawy, Erik Kessels, Trevor Paglen and Tobias Zielony – have been shortlisted for this year’s Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize.

The £30,000 prize, which will be announced at an award ceremony during the exhibition run next year, rewards a living photographer of any nationality for a body of work that has significantly contributed to photography in Europe this past year.

“This year’s shortlist reflects a range of approaches and subject matters encompassing the use of videos, objects and texts,” say the organizers in a statement. “These diverse bodies of work express political and personal concerns with identity, migration, surveillance and loss at their core.”

El-Tantawy’s self-published photobook, In the Shadow of the Pyramids, documents the rising tensions in her native Egypt during and before the revolution in Tahrir Square. Through family photographs, and portraits of protestors and street scenes, she explores her own family’s history in tandem with the search for the identity of a troubled nation.

Kessels’ Unfinished Father uses his father’s unfinished restoration project of an old Fiat 500 as a parallel to a life come undone after his father’s debilitating stroke. Kessels brought the pieces of the unassembled body of the Topolino car into the exhibition at Fotografia Europea in Italy, alongside photographs of his father and car parts, to show the fragmented reality of this loss.

Zielony followed a group of African refugee activists in Berlin and Hamburg, capturing the difficulties of a people living in refugee camps as outsiders without legal representation or work permits. Through photographs, first person accounts, interviews and narratives published by Zielony in African newspapers and magazines, the project, called The Citizen, is still being exhibited as part of the German Pavilion presentation at the 56th Biennale of Arts in Italy.

The Octopus, by Paglen, demonstrates the traces of secrets hidden by systems of power in the landscape through images of restricted military and government areas, skylines showing the flight tracks of passing drones and research assembled with experts. The images, which deal with complex topics like mass surveillance, data collection and classified satellite activities was exhibited at Frankfurter Kunstverein in Frankfurt, Germany last summer.

The works of the shortlisted photographers will be exhibited at The Photographers’ Gallery from April 16 to June 26, 2016.

Rachel Lowry is a writer and contributor for TIME LightBox. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @rachelllowry.

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