The Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation announced today that the American artist Trevor Paglen has won its 2016 prize, which recognizes a photographer who has made a significant contribution to their field in Europe. Paglen has been awarded £30,000, or a little more than $43,500. Laura El-Tantawy, Erik Kessels, and Tobias Zielony were also shortlisted for the prize last year. Each has received £3,000, or about $4,350.
The jury awarded the prize to Paglen for his show “The Octopus,” which opened at the Frankfurter Kunstverein in Germany last June. That exhibition surveyed Paglen’s photographs of big data, surveillance systems, and drones—things that, under normal conditions, remain hidden from the public, but which, through the artist’s work, are visualized. The year before, Paglen also did some of the cinematography for Laura Poitras’s Academy Award–winning documentary Citizenfour.
“The jury recognized Trevor Paglen’s project ‘The Octopus’ for its significant contribution to current issues that deal with the disquieting impact of the unseen aspects of technology on our daily lives,” Brett Rogers, the director of the Photographers’ Gallery and the chair of the jury, said in a statement. “They acknowledged the depth of research and variety of approaches he has developed to deal with subjects ranging from government and military surveillance to drone warfare. He successfully transforms these invisible means of control into compelling aesthetic objects and photographs, often referencing modernist paintings.”