Canada’s richest photography prize moved a step closer to choosing its third laureate on Tuesday, as the jury for the Scotiabank Photography Award (SPA) announced that Vancouver’s Stan Douglas and Montrealers Angela Grauerholz and Robert Walker are the three finalists for this year’s $50,000 prize.
The shortlisted artists, all well-recognized Canadian talents, were selected from a list of nominees provided by curators, photographers, critics and others involved in the visual arts across Canada.
“What these three artists have been able to do is show consistency, intelligence and passion over a long career,” said photographer Ed Burtynsky, founding chair of the SPA. He also commended the finalists for the “fearlessness” in their work.
Douglas, born in Vancouver, first gained wide attention for his installation works, which have included video, music and found objects. More recently, he has made elaborate staged photographs linked to Vancouver’s past, such as the large public art commission, Abbott & Cordova, 7 August 1971, an imaginative recreation of the Gastown Riots, shot on a constructed set with 80 actors and installed near the scene it depicts.
Grauerholz, who emigrated from Germany in 1976, is known for monochrome works that suggest the imagery of dreams and the flawed retention of the blurred snapshot. Her 2010 retrospective at the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography included a memory cabinet stocked with images from her career.
Walker was born in Montreal, and has been active for over three decades in New York and other cities as a street photographer of the metropolis. His colour-rich photos depict the city as a collage of fixed and fluid elements constantly reforming itself, though in recent years he has turned his lens toward flowers.
In addition to the cash prize, the SPA winner, who will be named on May 16, will receive a show at the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival in 2014, and a book published and distributed globally by the German art photography publisher Steidl. The runners-up will each receive $5,000.
The jurors were National Gallery of Canada curator Ann Thomas, Vancouver Art Gallery administrator Karen Love, and arts writer and publisher William Ewing.
Here are three images from the bodies of work they chose for their short list:
Stan Douglas. Maritime Worker’s Hall, 2006 Laserchrome print, mounted on aluminum 260 x 130 cm. Dim rows of empty chairs face a huge well-lit mural packed with scenes of bustling industrial activity around an idealized waterfront. The bright optimism of the muralist’s past jars against the present fact of Canada’s dwindling industrial base, particularly in martime communities.
Angela Grauerholz. Hospital, 1987 Azo dye print 48 x 64 inches. The angle of shot stresses the stern monumentality of the building, suggesting the fear many of us associate with hospitals. As in much of Grauerholz’s work, the blur, low light and minimal detail of the sepia-toned image propose a visual metaphor for the creative, appromixating function of memory.
Robert Walker. Little Italy, NY, 1978 Cibachrome print, 20 x 16 inches. The three figures each strike a similar contraposto slump, behind a forest of upended candy apples. As usual, Walker’s camera is drawn to bold colour concentrations, striking contrasts and the visual order that can appear spontaneously in casual situations.