Visual Arts: Life through a lens

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Indy Lifestyle Online
For a long time, photography was treated as the poor cousin of the other visual arts, never quite getting the same attention in our museums and public galleries as painting, sculpture or even the traditional underdog, print-making. Recently, though, there seems to have been a shift, or at least an awakening, to the medium's centrality to modern times.

More and more serious artists are choosing the camera as their primary tool, and in the last few years, all manner of grand exhibitions have put the history of photography into the public eye - this month alone, three London museums are celebrating Cartier Bresson's 90th birthday, with more to follow later in the year. To cap it all, 1998 is the official UK Year of Photography and the Electronic Image.

So, things are looking up for photo-based art, and nowhere more so than at the Photographers' Gallery, recent recipients of pounds 72,000 from the National Lottery to study the feasibility of ambitious development plans, which, if successful, will see them spend another pounds 4 million between now and 2001. Their current exhibition is another sign of the changing times - the second annual Citibank Private Bank Photography Prize, a pounds 10,000 award for "the most significant contribution to the medium of photography within Britain".

Which doesn't mean that it's a British prize; indeed, Paul Graham is the only Brit on the list, although all five of the nominees have exhibited here over last 12 months. Graham is a well-established artist with shows at the Tate and MOMA behind him, but for all that I don't fancy his chances against either Andreas Gursky or Hiroshi Sugimoto, whose beautiful and disorientating Sanjusangendo series ("Gorilla" (1994), above) can also be seen at Michael Hue Williams Fine Art, 21 Cork Street, W1 (0171-434 1318).

The winner will be announced on 18 March. The Photographer's Gallery exhibition runs until the end of the month. And, from today, they are also showing 22 of the 100 or so works that Citibank has collected since they first turned their acquisitive attention to photography in 1995.

Citibank Photography Prize and Collection, The Photographers' Gallery, 5 Great Newport Street, WC2 (0171-831 1772) to 28 Mar

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