German artist Ursula Schulz-Dornburg is the winner of the 2016 AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize, the internationally renowned award for contemporary photography that recognizes Canadian and international artists. Chosen by public vote, she receives $50,000. Other artists on this year’s shortlist included Talia Chetrit (USA), Jimmy Robert (France) and Elizabeth Zvonar (Canada).
Ursula’s work consists of a series of black-and-white conceptual photographs focusing on the human impact on land and buildings. During her long career, she has travelled extensively to capture the historical and political importance of architecture as well as document its destruction. She approaches the subjects who appear in her photographs with humanity, warmth and compassion, allowing their dignity to emerge.
In an emotional moment during the winner announcement ceremony on November 29, Ursula declared that she would donate her prize to C/O Berlin Foundation. This charitable organization is an exhibition venue for photography and visual media, showing works by renowned artists, promoting emerging talent and accompanying children, youths and adults on their journeys of discovery through visual culture. Recently C/O Berlin has extended its non-profit commitment to provide children and youth in socially disadvantaged living situations with a new program designed to playfully develop creativity and heighten awareness of their challenges. Among these children and youth are Syrian refugees who arrived in Germany alone.
Ursula feels strongly that art and photography play a critical role in shaping the experience of young people caught in the throes of a humanitarian crisis. Her donation to C/O Berlin marks a first in the history of the AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize. It is a gesture that fits perfectly with the artist’s philosophy and reflects a strong sense of urgency at a moment when the world is struggling with how to address the various international issues that bring refugees to new, and at times unfriendly, shores.
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