U.S.-based artist Hank Willis Thomas is the winner of the 2017 AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize, the internationally renowned award for contemporary photography that recognizes Canadian and international artists. Chosen by public vote, Thomas will receive a $50,000 prize. Other artists on this year’s shortlist included Liz Johnson Artur (Ghana/Russia), Raymond Boisjoly (Haida Nation/Canada) and Taisuke Koyama (Japan).
Here’s everything you need to know about our 2017 winning artist!
Hank Willis Thomas is a multidisciplinary contemporary African-American visual artist, photographer and arts educator, whose works deals primarily with themes related to identity, history and popular culture.
Thomas’s work includes photography, installation, sculpture and performance. He considers himself “a photographic archaeologist, or a visual culture archaeologist,” he said in a recent interview with the AGO. “I believe that all the content in my work is really about framing and context, about calling the viewer to think about how their position affects what they see.”
Thomas frequently uses recognizable icons or brands in his work. Early in his career, Thomas created Priceless, a work that depicts his own cousin’s funeral with the familiar MasterCard pricing overlay from its advertising campaign in the early 2000s. When asked about incorporating advertising into his work in an interview with Time in 2011, Thomas said, “Part of advertising’s success is based on its ability to reinforce generalizations developed around race, gender and ethnicity which are generally false, but [these generalizations] can sometimes be entertaining, sometimes true, and sometimes horrifying.”
You can see Thomas’s work, as well as the work of the three other finalists, in the AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize Exhibition, open until January 14, 2018. It is included in general admission, and is free for AGO Members.
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