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Emmanuelle Léonard, Annie MacDonell on shortlist for the Grange Prize

Canadian Untitled, from the Picture Collection series by Annie MacDonell.

Four photographers – two from Canada, two from the United Kingdom – are the finalists for the 2012 Grange Prize for excellence in contemporary photography, it was announced Wednesday in Toronto by the Art Gallery of Ontario, co-sponsor with Aeroplan of the $50,000 award.

Now in its fifth year, the Grange is unique in that it's a bi-national competition and the winner, to be announced Nov. 1 in Toronto, is chosen by public vote. The 2012 short-list – Montreal's Emmanuelle Léonard, Torontonian Annie MacDonell, Welsh-born Jason Evans, London's Jo Longhurst – was assembled by a five-person jury headed by Sophie Hackett, the AGO's assistant curator of photography. Previous competitions have pitted Canadian photographers againist counterparts from China (2008), Mexico (2009), the U.S. (2010) and India (2011).

Exhibitions of works by this year's finalists are being held at the AGO, opening Sept. 5, and at Canada House on London's Trafalgar Square, beginning Sept. 27. Both shows run through Jan. 6 next year, with voting stations at each venue . Online voting starts Wed. Aug. 22 at, and concludes Oct. 30.

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According to the announcement, each of the finalists shares "a fascination with the world of images that surround us every day – from fashion editorial and sports photography to landscape images and crime-scene documentation." Said Hackett in a statement: "By appropriating, re-editing and representing photographic and filmic material, they reinvigorate our relationship with photography."

Longhurst for instance, is known for portraits of elite gymnasts and whippet show dogs – meditations on physical perfection and self-creation – often set in sculptural elements such as Plexiglas blocks. Leonard, who works in both photography and video, "tackles the persuasive nature of the photographic images" by, for example, reworking police photos and crime-scene documents. Evans is perhaps best known for his series Strictly – photographs of young, suburban black males dressed as English country gentlemen – now in the permanent collection of the Tate Modern in London. MacDonell engages in a multi-disciplinary practice involving photography, sound, installation and film. All four artists receive an artist-in-residency, with Evans and Longhurst coming to Toronto and MacDonell and Leonard travelling to the U.K.

Each of the three runners-up receives $5,000.

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