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Joel Sternfeld Wins The Citigroup Photography Prize 2004

Exhibition Ends: 28 March 2004

Joel Sternfeld's remarkable, dramatic and often surreal photographs of the American land and people have won him this year's £20,000 Citigroup Photography Prize.

At a special gala award ceremony at The Photographers' Gallery on 4th March, Joel Sternfeld was presented with the £20,000 prize by the Rt. Hon. Tessa Jowell MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. The other three finalists Peter Fraser, David Goldblatt and Robert Adams received cheques for £2,000. In his congratulatory speech, Sir Win Bishoff, Chairman of Citigroup Europe, thanked Sternfeld for his outstanding contribution to photography.

Joel Sternfeld was nominated for his solo exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery between December 2002 and January 2003.

The jury, chaired by Paul Wombell (Director of the Photographers' Gallery) and consisting of Dr Susanne Lange (Director, SK Stiftung Kultur/ Die Photographische Sammlung, Germany), Jeremy Millar (Artist and Curator, UK) and Russell Roberts (Senior Curator of Photographs & Head of Photography, National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, Bradford, UK), chose Sternfeld for the especial strength and impact of his work, notably the series American Prospects, which has enjoyed a welcome critical reappraisal and is now influencing a whole new generation of photographers.

A contemporary of the New Topographic and Narrative photographers, such as Robert Adams and Lewis Baltz, Sternfeld brought colour to photographic depictions of the American landscape. In his first book, American Prospects, he investigated the blurred boundaries between city and wilderness. Extraordinary images such as the runaway circus elephant recaptured and being sedated whilst vehicles and a police car straddle the road around it à la Bonnie and Clyde and the bizarre sight of a fireman calmly buying a pumpkin from a roadside stall whilst a house blazes in the background forces the viewer into considering the absurd and extraordinary nature of the everyday. The impact of this body of work continues to resonate through contemporary artistic, filmmaking and photographic practice. American Prospects is an exploration of the landscape as simultaneously idyllic and dystopian, reflecting on the changing states of American society. Sternfeld wrote that it was the urge "of someone who grew up with a vision of classical regional America and the order it seemed to contain, to find beauty and harmony in an increasingly uniform, technological, and disturbing America."

Also on show at no. 5 Gt. Newport St. is work from the series, Walking the High Line, a documentation of an unused stretch of New York railway track, which Sternfeld has been instrumental in preserving as an urban park rather than allow it to be developed as real estate. His photographs pay a tender tribute to this unlikely oasis.

Now in its eighth year, the Prize is one of the most prestigious international arts awards and recognizes those that have made a significant contribution to the medium of photography. Past winners of this £20,000 prize include Juergen Teller, Richard Billingham, Andreas Gursky, Boris Mikhailov and Rineke Dijkstra.

The exhibition continues at The Photographers' Gallery until 28th March. From here it will be touring to the museum kunst palast, Dusseldorf from 29 May to 22 August 2004.



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