Britain’s Jo Longhurst is this year’s winner of the $50,000 Grange Prize for excellence in contemporary photography, it was announced Thursday evening at a ceremony at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.
Longhurst, 50, prevailed over three other finalists – two from Canada, another from the U.K. – to take the bi-national prize. Awarded annually since 2008, the Grange is unique in that the winner is decided by public vote after the finalists have been selected by a five-member jury. In this instance, voting began in late August, both online and on location at the AGO and Canada House, London (where exhibitions of work by the four finalists were mounted), and concluded at midnight Oct. 30. This year, almost 20,000 votes were cast.
Besides the cash, Longhurst, who has a doctorate from the Royal College of Art, London, receives an artist-in-residency at the AGO, starting next week and running through Dec. 15. Each of the three other finalists – Montreal’s Emmanuelle Leonard, Toronto’s Annie MacDonell and Jason Evans – also receives an artist-in-residence, effective next year, plus $5,000.
Each instalment of the prize pits two photographers from Canada against two from another country (this year it was the U.K.). Previous competitions have featured photographers from China (2008), Mexico (2009), the U.S. (2010) and India (2011). A Canadian has won the Grange on two occasions, in 2008 (Sarah Anne Johnson) and 2010 (Kristan Horton).
Longhurst’s two primary bodies of work investigate notions of physical perfection and self-creation and the part photography plays in them. Her AGO show – it stays up through Jan. 6, along with the works of her fellow finalists – focuses on photographs, both her own and ones she has collected, of elite gymnasts in action. Her other significant body of work, on whippet show dogs, was displayed earlier this year at Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany.
All of this year’s finalists showed a decided conceptualist and multidisciplinary bent. Noted Sophie Hackett, the AGO’s assistant curator of photography and chair of the Grange panel: “By appropriating, re-editing and representing photographic and filmic material, they reinvigorate [the world’s] relationship with photography.”