by Dalisu Ngobese
So the night we came to London for had come, with hugs, smiles and kisses on both cheeks the room was filled with anticipation and nerves started to show on Zanele’s laughter. A slight uneasiness that I’ve never witnessed before was visible in her gaze as people in their own uneasiness wanted to strike a different conversation to that about the huge elephant in the room.
The obvious point that everyone kept making was why was this a competition between 4 totally different works of photography in the first place?
The answer is because there is a need to recognize the world’s most talented photographer(s) in the world. So how can you rate someone’s work as the best when they are not even in competition with anyone else and are not in the same genre or subject matter as the next photographer’s work?
Dubbed the Oscar’s of photography the Deutsch Borse Prize held at The Photographers’ Gallery London is rated amongst the most prestigious in the world of photography but with only one nominee that gets to walk away with the £30 000 prize money and that makes it even more “prestigious” I guess.
The campaign was flowing on all 3 floors the 1st was where the speeches and the announcement was going to take place, 2nd and 3rd were the nominated artist’s work all packed to the rafters. Time for the announcement and the heavy duty fell on the shoulders of 2013 winner and fellow South African Adam Bloomberg to read the winner(s) of this year’s prize. And the winner is… Mikhael Subotzky (born 1981, South Africa) and Patrick Waterhouse (born 1981, UK). The three other nominees Zanele Muholi, Viviane Sassen and Nikolai Bakharev sadly miss out on the prize and I felt the night ended without knowing how the winners were picked or what this really means for the winners besides the prize money.
I was disappointed for Zanele as much as I was disappointed for the black community in knowing that we could be fighting for recognition in spaces where what you are fighting for is not credited for what it wants to be but only for what it was. Here is a black South African in Zanele Muholi fighting to end violence and rapes against the LGBTI community and raising its status to normality by presenting positive and strong imagery of black people who happen to be lesbian or gay or bi-sexual not being recognized for her lifetime’s work and I thought to myself had her perspective been of beat up lesbians or poor gay men or homophobes her work would have been recognized tonight. In her definitive words the “world is not ready for gay content.” Certainly not in the way Muholi views it.