Matthias Bruggmann, Z6A4432, Irak, 2016, from the series “A Haunted World Where It Never Shows.” Photo: Prix Elysée.

Photographer Matthias Bruggmann Wins 2017 Prix Elysée

The Musée de l’Elysée, an institution in Lausanne dedicated entirely to photography, has announced that Swiss photographer Matthias Bruggmann was awarded the 2017 Prix Elysée at the museum’s Nuit des Images (Night of Images) on Saturday, June 24, for his politically-charged work, which explores the interface between documentary and art.

Bruggmann received roughly $83,000 for his proposal, titled “A Haunted World Where It Never Shows,” which expands on his long-term photographic project, launched in 2012, of documenting the conflict in Syria.The funds will also support an accompanying book, which will be released in June 2018.

Reflecting on his work, Bruggmann said, “Formally, my previous work put viewers in a position where they were asked to decide the nature of the work itself. A scientifically questionable analogy of this mechanism would be the observer effect in quantum physics, where the act of observing changes the nature of what is being observed. My Syrian work builds on this framework.” He added, “While perfectly conforming to accepted documentary norms, part of the work aims at eroding the viewer’s implicit faith in my own trustworthiness as a witness, and attempts to force a further reflection on the nature of what is presented.”

The international jury was composed of Mimi Chun, founder and director of the Blindspot Gallery in Hong Kong; Andrew Sanigar, commissioning editor of Thames & Hudson in London; Salvador Nadales, curator of collections and head of institutional relations at the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid; Astrid Ullens de Schooten, founder and president of the A. Stichting Foundation in Brussels; and the founding partners of the prize, Tatyana Franck, director of the Musée de l’Elysée; Michel Parmigiani, founder of Parmigiani Fleurier in Fleurier, Switzerland; and Marina Vatchnadze, manager of cultural patronage at the Sandoz Family Foundation in Pully, Switzerland.

“Matthias Bruggmann’s project presented us with insights into the complexities and the lives on the line in the Syrian crisis,” said Sanigar. “His work is brave, startling, compelling, raw, and sometimes bizarre.”