Mohamed Bourouissa wins Deutsche Borse photography prize

The French-Algerian artist won the Dh144,000 prize in recognition of his installation Free Trade, shown in a French supermarket

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French-Algerian artist Mohamed Bourouissa, whose work looks at power structures and disenfranchised communities, has won the 2020 Deutsche Borse photography prize.

Bourouissa was nominated for the £30,000 (Dh144,000) prize for his exhibition Free Trade, which was shown at a Monoprix supermarket for the Rencontres d’Arles photography festival last year.

The exhibition drew highlights from Bourouissa's work over the past 15 years, such as his 2005-2008 series Peripherique, composed of photographs that depicted the lives of young people in Paris's suburbs, or banlieues. The images evoke an underlying tension and potential for violence in these communities, which have been marginalised in society, and the work alludes to the 2005 riots in the suburbs of Paris.

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Born in Algeria, Bourouissa moved to France with his family when he was five years old. He grew up in the suburbs of Paris, where he faced the same discrimination that he often addresses in his photographs.

Free Trade also included a more recent series, titled Shoplifters, for which the artist re-photographed Polaroids of shoplifters in Brooklyn. In an interview with The National last month, Bourouissa revealed that Shoplifters was the "most difficult work" he has made, as he questioned the ethics of authorship around the images.

“After I photographed the series, I was still undecided whether it was ethical. But then I realised the subject was not the people in the pictures, but the object of the original photograph and the violence that object represents. This is related to the violence of photography in general, of stealing someone’s image in the act of taking a picture. In my work I am often looking at who is behind the image,” he said.

The 2019 exhibition also included his work Nous Sommes Halles from 2003 to 2005, which was inspired by Jamel Shabazz's streetwear photographs from 1980s New York. Working with his friend Anoushkashoot, Bourouissa created his own series featuring young people – mostly men of African descent – from the Paris banlieues. The images reflect how fashion brands often appropriate modes of style from communities of colour, while excluding them from their brand imagery.

Mohamed Bourouissa's 'Nous Sommes Halles' (2002-2003) in collaboration with Anoushkashoot. Courtesy Mohamed Bourouissa; Kamel Mennour
Mohamed Bourouissa's 'Nous Sommes Halles' (2002-2003) in collaboration with Anoushkashoot. Courtesy Mohamed Bourouissa; Kamel Mennour

The announcement for the Deutsche Borse photography prize was made during an online ceremony hosted by The Photographers’ Gallery in London, where some of Bourouissa’s work is currently exhibited.

Bourouissa addressed the jury and audience by reading out a statement. “I’m happy to [have] won because it represents an accumulation of 20 years of work,” he said.

Founded in 1996, the Deutsche Borse Photography Foundation Prize is given to artists who have exhibited or published significant works of photography in Europe in the previous year.

The other nominees for this year’s award were Anton Kusters, a Belgian photographer whose project offered a conceptual approach to trauma; British photographer Mark Neville, known for work that combines art and social documentary; and Clare Strand from the UK, whose project explored the impact of digital technology on how we interpret visual information.