Esther Windsor

Citibank Photography Prize 2000

In association with The Photographers' Gallery

curated by Esther Windsor

Anna Gaskell, James Casebere, Tracey Moffat, Jitka Hanzlova, Tim Macmillan

About the Prize - In its short four year history The Citibank Private Bank Photography Prize has earned a reputation for innovation and excellence. Its past winners, Richard Billingham, Andreas Gursky and Rineke Dijkstra, have all consolidated their international reputations, reflected in growing demand for their work from curators, museums and collectors.

Selecting winners is not easy. A successful competition requires a rigorous selection of finalists and expert judges. We have been very fortunate over the years with the quality of our judges. Three highly respected art critics from our quality newspapers have sat on our panels, joined by curators, academics, independent writers and photographers, drawn from throughout the UK and abroad. A fresh panel of judges each year ensures no bias affects the selection process. Winners from Britain, Germany and The Netherlands reflect the diversity of the process and its rejection of the parochial.

This year our international panel includes Val Williams, an influential independent curator and writer, currently Curator at the Hasselblad Center, Gothenburg; HripsimeVisser, Photography Curator from the renowned Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam; Olivier Richon, Course Director of Photography at the Royal College of Art, London; and Michael Mack, an independent curator, writer and editor of several photography books. All our judges have a broad in-depth knowledge of photography, viewed from an international and historical perspective. Ian Dunlop: Citibank

The Artists

Anna Gaskel
lAnna Gaskell was born in 1969 in Des Moines, USA and studied at Yale University School of Art, Art Institute of Chicago and Bennington College. She now lives and works in New York.

Anna Gaskell creates new fictions out of old ones. In her striking photographic tableaux, childhood stories play a key part in engaging the viewer. Alluded to rather than explicit, Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderlandwas the foundation of the series override and her most recent work, by proxy, is based on the infamous Genene Jones, a real-life pediatric nurse in Texas who was convicted of several murders in the early 1980s.

Gaskell's style, while hinting at the glamour of a fashion shoot by its seductive surface imagery, is immersed in the aesthetics of filmmaking. Her exaggerated close-ups, the claustrophobic Hitchcockian camera angles and the sense of fragmentation all play with cinematic language. Add to this her use of colour and the bizarre, Baroque compositions and you have photographs that are filled with a sense of movement, with figures stretching out in weird poses and body parts seen fleetingly.

The role of the viewer is a complicated one. There is a potential for voyeurism but GaskeU's style is too detached and her choreography too tight to allow for this. Influenced and informed by the work of Cindy Sherman and Laurie Simmons, GaskeU's photographs play with notions of eroticism, identity and gender. The large-scale photographs of by proxy, show models dressed in nurses' uniforms and set against ominous backgrounds of trees and sky. Gaskell is one of a number of artists who concentrate on using young children and women as their primary subject matter. Whether she is mourning a loss of innocence or merely telling an unusual pictorial story is for us to decide. What we do have is an artist whose imagery has been filtered through a frenetic interest in the moving image and has produced work that leaves us with more questions than answers.

James Casebere
James Casebere was born in 1953 in Lansing, USA and studied at Michigan State University, Minneapolis College Of Art and Design and California Institute of Arts. He lives and works in New York.

James Casebere is best known for making table-top models in Styrofoam and plaster of fictitious architectural settings which he then lights to make large, luminous photographs. The Asylum series are empty, stark places which are as much related to the solitude you might find in Edward Hopper's paintings as to the physical reality of prison interiors. The spaces are clean and beautiful, alluding to the purity you would find in post-Reformation Protestant church interiors. They are not real spaces,' says Casebere, They are about the origins of the prison in the Quaker-inspired Prison Reform movement of the late 18th and early 19th century. They sought to bring the values of solitude and redemption to punishment — taking it out of the realms of public spectacle, and away from its humiliation, torture, dismemberment and execution. Incarceration was linked to the ideal of reform, solitary confinement to the positive values of solitude.'

In Casebere's Asylum series, light is the most prominent piece of furniture. It helps to evoke a powerful sense of tension in the way he draws to our attention the difference between forced isolation and voluntary solitude, playing with ideas of public and private space which we encounter on a daily level. Some of his images resemble subterranean tunnels, 'damp, dimly lit, urban and public,' says Casebere. They're a bit intestinal, yet internal and private, the conflation of a modern sports arena and a Roman bath.' It is not just the content that interests Casebere, it is also his own and the viewer's emotional response to the interiors. The viewer is the character in the room. Hopefully feeling the same dread, boredom, surprise, isolated tension and sometimes freedom, which is what the process is all about.'

Tracey Moffatt
Tracey Moffatt was born in 1960 in Brisbane, Australia and studied at Queensland College of Art. She now lives and works in New York.

Stylisation and narrative are at the core of Tracey Moffatt's work. Be it in her photography, film or pop videos, she has created work that is clearly contemporary but has great admiration for the art of the past. She was brought up in the 'deep north' of Australia's Queensland, the cultural equivalent, as Moffatt points out, of America's Deep South. On one hand she was surrounded by a starkly beautiful landscape, while on the other immersed in an environment blighted by socio-political problems and a lack of high culture. 'For this lack [of high culture] I am eternally grateful. If you are attracted to these things then you will discover them for yourself.'

With painterly and filmic references, from Renaissance painting to the films of Pasolini, Moffatt has discovered a way of presenting a sociological map of Australia that taps into contemporary cultural concerns. It is as if she is taking up Sidney Nolan's painterly exploration of dystopia and modernising it for a contemporary audience. She incorporates into her work elements ranging from Aboriginal genocide (her mother is an Aborigine) and rural poverty to surfer dudes, soap opera and imported television. However her narrative dramas contain more ambiguity. For example, in the photographic series Laudanum, we see a white woman terrorising an Asian servant. She cuts off her hair, drugs her, perhaps sexually abuses her— it is not clear. It looks like an historic image. Moffatt has bleached and scratched the surface, but this could very well be of today, ' Life is war,' Moffatt has said, 'you have to dodge the bullets.'

Violence plays a big part in Moffatt's imagery as is evident in her most recent work Scarred for Life ll. Sometimes it is clear to witness, at other times it is merely suggested, either by the narrative or by the expressive use of light and shade in her compositions. More broadly, Moffatt explores notions of power and its abuse at every level, from domestic to political. The fictionality makes this imagery that much stronger, encouraging us, the viewer, to reflect on how we behave in our own lives.

Jitka Hanzlova
Jitka Hanzlova was born in 1958, in Nachod, Czech Republic and studied at the University of Essen. She now lives and works in Essen.

Rokytnik is the name of a village of 200 people in Northern Bohemia where Hanzlova grew up, before political developments led her into exile in Germany. In 1990, after the Velvet Revolution, she returned to her native country and started taking photographs of what she found. It was an extraordinary and transformative experience. At first it seemed unfamiliar but as she wandered the streets and got to know the spaces and people she had left behind, her feelings changed. 'Slowly I felt my way back to long-suspended memories of my childhood and was at once terrified and fascinated. By the aged faces of people, by the trees that had grown and were suddenly casting different shadows on the walls.'

What at first seem like straightforward documentary photographs of an ordinary East European village become, on repeated viewing, strangely alluring, slightly awkward images of a people who seem to have been held in suspended animation and stopped in their tracks by grand political activities. It has clearly affected Hanzlova on her return. 'Everything seemed empty, grey and silent. Here it finally dawned on me that I came from another world, which time never leaves behind and which is full of brilliant colours and ever changing images.'

Hanzlova found herself facing a personal conflict between her own past and present. What had altered? What was true? 'What had changed,' she says, 'was my perception of people, nature and things I knew. I discovered the tension of slowness... a different flow of life.' She has captured this sense by choosing to photograph people in what seem like unusual situations; crawling on the ground, lying in a ditch, sitting in a bath en plein air. They offer a window on a world that feels unfamiliar still. 'Distance had given me a new perception of stored experiences, had enabled me to view the most obvious things in a new way.'

Tim Macmillan
Tim Macmillan was born in 1959 in Portland, USA and studied at Bath Academy of Art and Slade School of Art, London. He lives and works in Bath, England.

Tim Macmillan developed an extraordinary device called the Time-Slice Camera while studying painting in the early 1980s. This camera, which consists of dozens of lens mechanisms, each exposing a separate frame simultaneously, produces a sweeping tracking shot of a frozen moment in time.

It was this technique Macmillan used in his large-scale video installation Dead Horse. In it we see the projection of a horse at the moment when a bullet enters its brain. All its four hooves are off the ground as it absorbs the shock of the bullet, the split second before its brain ceases to function. It is an arresting and harrowing image. We are taken around the scene as if visually dissecting a moment, waiting for the horse to slump to the ground. Seductive but gruesome, what it leaves out is as enticing as what we can see.

Dead Horse is a curious piece, sitting as it does in several technical camps; photography animation and sculpture. It reveals how photography, essentially a flat medium, has the potential to represent more accurately the three-dimensional world. As well as raising questions about how we perceive the space around us it also more immediately shows us the dramatic pace of sequential image technology and computer innovation.

Not surprisingly Macmillan's technique has been in high demand in the world of advertising and he has made many memorable sequences using this new device, working on commercial projects across the globe, from BBC Natural History documentaries to American TV commercials: proof indeed that technical innovation has the potential for a wide appeal.