The SPA is advertised as Canada’s largest annual peer-reviewed prize honouring the work of contemporary Canadian photographers—as opposed to prizes that are voted upon by the public and include non-Canadian photographers, such as the Grange Prize. According to a release, the SPA is “designed to provide support to the winning artist as he or she reaches for the next level of national and international recognition.”
Based in Vancouver, Stan Douglas is already quite well known internationally. He has exhibited multiple times at the Venice Biennale and Documenta, and last year he won the International Center of Photography’s Infinity Award. He is recognized as part of the Vancouver school of photoconceptualists that also includes Ian Wallace, Jeff Wall and Rodney Graham. Re-enactments of films and political incidents are common in Douglas’s work—one of his large public works in downtown Vancouver, Abbott & Cordova, 7 August 1971, restages a scene from the 1971 Gastown riot. Douglas—who will soon be working with mobile apps as well as photographs, films and projections—was nominated by Halifax artist and NSCAD professor Robert Bean.
Montreal artist Angela Grauerholz, who was born in Hamburg, has also participated in international events such as Documenta, the Biennale of Sydney and the Carnegie International. Whether focusing on portraiture, architecture or interiors—or creating installations and sculptures—her work has questioned the accepted norms of photography, both in terms of content and process, and has often highlighted the role of the archive. For example, one installation takes the form of a traditional museum cabinet housing 62 framed photographs, which can be pulled out like drawers. Another project, the website At Work and Play, she created a digital archive organized in a poetic fashion. Grauerholz, who was the subject of a National Gallery of Canada survey in 2010, was nominated by Carol Podedworny, director and chief curator, McMaster Museum of Art.
Robert Walker, also based in Montreal, is perhaps closest to the legacy of traditional street photography. Though he originally studied painting, in the 1970s he turned to photography following workshops with Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander. For three decades he documented dense urban environments, and created books such as Color is Power, published in 2002 by Thames & Hudson. In more recent years, Walker has engaged the natural world and in particular concentrated on photographing flowers. Walker, whose work is in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris and the National Gallery of Canada was nominated by 2011 SPA winner Lynne Cohen.
Award founder Edward Burtynsky introduced the shortlist announcement this morning in Toronto. It is the third year of the award’s existence. The 2012 winner was Arnaud Maggs.
Artists from across Canada were nominated for the SPA by artists, curators and other art professionals from across Canada. The SPA jury members who selected the shortlist from those submissions consists of William Ewing, director of curatorial projects, Thames & Hudson; Karen Love, director of foundation and government grants, Vancouver Art Gallery; and Ann Thomas, curator, photographs, National Gallery of Canada.
The winner of the prize will be announced May 16.