Mohamed Bourouissa wins Deutsche Börse Prize

The French-Algerian artist Mohamed Bourouissa, whose work includes found mugshots of shoplifters, as well a video made with a prisoner on a smuggled cameraphone, has won the £30,000 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize.

Shoplifters (2014–15) features mugshots Bourouissa photographed displayed in the window of a Brooklyn convenience store. The found images show people, who are almost all Black or Hispanic, posing with the essential goods – food, cleaning products – they had allegedly attempted to steal. If they agreed to pose for a photograph, the shopkeeper agreed not to call the police.

‘After I photographed the series, I was still undecided whether it was ethical’ Bourouissa told The National. ‘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.’

Mohamed Bourouissa, Unknown #15, from the series SHOPLIFTERS, 2014

In Temps Mort (2009), over SMS, Bourouissa directs a friend serving a prison sentence to take various shots on the phone’s camera, the phone having been smuggled into the French jail by the artist. These images are then edited with Bourouissa’s messages.

The artist, who was nominated for his mid-career retrospective in an old Monoprix supermarket in Arles as part of Rencontres d’Arles, France, is best known for Périphérique (2005–8), a series of dramatic staged scenes in the suburbs of Paris. Though directed they portray the everyday camaraderie, as well as the challenges of life amongst the working class and African immigrant community which the artist was raised in. Many feature friends and family of Bourouissa.

Mohamed Bourouissa, La République, 2006, from the series Périphérique
Mohamed Bourouissa, La Prise, 2008, From the series Périphérique. All images © the artist, Kamel Mennour, Paris & London and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles

In a statement on his work for the Photographers’ Gallery, London, where the prize shortlist in currently on show, Bourouissa said: ‘When I was in school I learned about the history of art but that didn’t introduce other aspects of my home culture or leave traces of the people around me, so later I decided to try to bring my home culture into the history of art. For me it’s about the idea of integration – how we can integrate our own histories into that one.’

Bourouissa was selected by a jury featuring Martin Barnes, senior curator of photographs at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the artist Melanie Manchot; Joachim Naudts, curator and editor at FOMU Foto Museum in Antwerp; and Anne-Marie Beckmann, director of the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation, Frankfurt.

The artist’s work, as well as that of the three other shortlisted photographers, Anton Kusters, Mark Neville and Clare Strand, is on show at the London gallery through 20 September.

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