Anna Jermolaewa. 2021 Otto Breicha Prize for Artistic Photography
Anna Jermolaewa (Leningrad, USSR, 1970–Vienna, AT) is the winner of the 2021 Otto Breicha Prize. She was forced into exile in 1989 and settled in Austria, where she studied art history before completing her education at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna in 2002. She has been professor of experimental design at the University of Art and Design Linz since 2018. A self-described “realist,” the conceptual artist has devised a distinctive form of engagement with reality that is often critical and betrays a dark sense of humor. “Hostile Architecture,” for example, is a photographic series begun in 2019 that captures metal spikes and similar installations in public settings designed to prevent homeless people from lingering. Jermolaewa also documents the painful imprints of such inhuman architecture on her own body.
Her works, typically in the media of photography and video, often develop out of observations of everyday objects and tie in with her personal history. Jermolaewa reflects on themes including memory, the sense of being uprooted, and fresh starts; her experiences as a traveler alert to her surroundings, in particular, inspire projects that scrutinize the circumstances in which people live and structures of power in the world. A characteristic example is “Chernobyl Safari,” on which Jermolaewa has worked since 2014: in the deserted exclusion zone around the nuclear reactor, she recorded film footage of extraordinary beauty, showing, for instance, the wild horses released by conservationists, which found ideal conditions in the area. Nature is better off without humans: that is one insight to be drawn from this work.
Otto Breicha Prize for Artistic Photography
The Museum der Moderne Salzburg has given out a biennial award for fine art photography since 1983. In 2007, the Breicha family endowed the award, which was rebranded “Otto Breicha Prize for Artistic Photography—Museum der Moderne Salzburg” and now honors a photography artist who was born or lives in Austria. The award is named after Otto Breicha, the founding director of the Moderne Galerie und Graphische Sammlung—Rupertinum, the predecessor institution to today’s museum. Anna Jermolaewa is the eighteenth winner of the award.