Art: Private View - The Citibank Photography Prize

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The Independent Culture
The Citibank Photography Prize The Photographers' Gallery, London WC2

The Citibank photography prize, now in its third year, opens on 6 February with five artists competing for the pounds 10,000 award. The Sam Taylor Wood school of photography is much in evidence these days - elaborate staged tableaus of the artist and friends pretending activity or striking a pose - and this shortlist is no exception, with Paul Smith and Yinka Shonibare giving different takes on the theme of staged self-portraiture.

Shonibare's Diary of an Edwardian Dandy involves a lot of dressing up in fancy costumes, which looks quite fun but faintly pointless, while Smith enacts a lad's world of army life and nights on the town with all parts played by himself in a complex weave of computer fiddling.

Smith's idea is a funny one, convincingly pulled off, but it's hard to think it will be judged "the most significant contribution to the medium of photography over the last year". But then, the awarding of art prizes is a notoriously odd business.

Last year's Citibank winner, the German photographer Andreas Gursky (above), is also showing work in London (see Serpentine listing, left) which confirms him a worthy winner. He's an ambitious photographer who makes his trade look very simple, though in truth the images are carefully planned and structured. There's a vastness that gives the subject, however mundane, an epic quality with mankind reduced almost to dust. It's an odd, rather disorientating trick and very effective.

Photographers' Gallery, 5 Gt Newport Street, London WC2 (0171-831 1772) 6 Feb-3 Apr

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