European Prize of Architectural Photography 2009 Neue Heimat


Since the first European Architecture Photography Prize was awarded in 1995, the prize has become the most meaningful forum in its field. The growing examination of the built environment and its artistic interpretation re-main in the foreground, whereby the prize is awarded every year with a particular given subject. Under the rubric “Neue Heimat – New Homeland” this year’s 6,000 Euro award was presented to Munich photographer Stephan Sahm. The award ceremony took place in April at the German Architecture Museum, Frankfurt, home to the European Architecture Photography Prize archives since 2008.

Stephan Sahm’s vivid image series depicts hamster cages, and with the house pet’s extreme artificial and unnatu-ral “new plastic homeland”, Sahm places the complexity of the competition topic humorously and enigmatically in the image. What at first comes across as amusing and superficial emerges as a critical view of the circumstances of approximately 6.6 million house pets living in Germany. The colors, forms and materials of their dwellings do not correspond to the natural environment of animals, but rather serve the owners’ imagination: The animal as an individual does not seem to be the focus, but rather the dwelling itself.

In addition, two equally endowed second prizes were awarded. Jacky Longstaff shows the scenario of a newly developed settlement in Newcastle. In a foggy romantic setting, realistic motifs revolve around the subject of “Neue Heimat” in an oppressive atmosphere. The thematic focus is the change of a setting through seasons, weather and annual events.

For Timothy Griffith, who has already received numerous international prizes, the animal kingdom is also the focus. His series was developed during construction of the Africa Hall at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. In hyperrealistic backdrops of dioramas, the familiar animals are presented as grandiose, convinc-ing actors, who make us want to forget the artificiality of the situation.