This exhibition is a chance to see some of the beautiful and highly-affecting work by the artists shortlisted for this year's Deutsche Börse Photography Prize – Mishka Henner, Chris Killip, Christina De Middel, and the duo Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin.  

Broomberg and Chanarin have been shortlisted for their publication War Primer 2 (2011), a harrowing documentation of the horrors of contemporary warfare. It is particularly affecting because their method is so original: the duo have superimposed 21st century war images over old photographs of the two World Wars. Placed underneath is the pair's analysis of the largely-unseen original image. For example, a photograph of a well-known carrot from the 1940s that somehow grew to resemble a curvaceous pin-up model has been covered up with the now instantly-recognisable, somewhat ubiquitous image of a torture victim in Abu Ghraib, standing on a box with a bag over his head and wires attached to his body. An apt choice, as this was the image that brought to light the ill treatment of detainees in Iraq by the American armed forces, and one that is particularly galling when juxtaposed with the frivolity of the carrot image. This is heightened by the eerie caption: "So you may have what you've been pining for / This sexy carrot might bring satisfaction, / A pin-up for your tent on distant shores! / They say such pictures rouse the dead to action!", thereby objectifying and even fetishising the unidentified detainee, just as his torturers would have done. The other works in this series are just as chilling – particularly a photograph of soldiers sleeping in the trenches in the Second World War, collated with an image of a gunned-down Iraqi civilian; whilst the soldiers sleep peacefully, the latter's death is invaded callously by a number of camera phones eager to capture and sensationalise the scene.  

These works are displayed alongside Christina De Middel's series The Afronauts (2011), for which she has constructed fictional space travel scenarios with Zambian astronauts dressed in African textiles, interspersed with evidence – in the form of letters – of Zambia's failed space programme, set up by Edward Makuka Nkoloso as the largely unknown "Zambia National Academy of Space Research". The final correspondence in the series explains how "The program therefore died a natural death." The pairing of Middel's work with that of Broomberg and Chanarin seems an odd one; although this is a great series, the viewer's head is likely to still be reeling from the intensity of the preceding series, which is rather a shame for De Middel. I recommend viewing the remainder of the exhibition, before returning to The Afronauts after seeing Chris Killip on the lower floor.

The rest of the works, by Mishka Henner and Chris Killip, are diverse enough to command equal attention. Henner's No Man's Land series (exhibited in 2012) is innovative, but tragic, using Google Street View along with knowledge gained from seedy internet forums to pinpoint and photograph the exact locations of sex workers in remote, often desolate areas on the peripheries of southern European towns and cities. The images of young girls sitting alone, seemingly unaware of the camera's gaze, is haunting – and makes it clear how much more vulnerable these girls are in the digital age, with their location and presence ever-available and accessible to the sordid underbelly of the online world.

Killip's work This is What Happened - Great Britain 1970-90 is a touching documentation of Thatcher's Britain, focusing specifically on North East England and the Isle of Man. One particularly moving image, I felt, was North Shields Housing Estate on the Day Mrs Thatcher Announced the Death of Bobby Sands, 5 May 1981, Tyneside – a rather desolate scene, with only a few children standing on a wall looking blankly at the camera, whilst a graffito in the background speaks volumes: "BOBBY SANDS GREEDY IRISH PIG", a strange and disturbingly vicious statement in agreement with Thatcher's policy. In the wake of Baroness Thatcher's passing, this series – and particularly this image – is apt, and incredibly powerful regardless of your political inclinations.  

It's so difficult to speculate as to which artist coulds be awarded the prize – they're all so interesting in such different ways – that I'm going to have to completely avoid doing so. The exhibition as a whole is fantastic, and a really good way to see four entirely different approaches to contemporary political art photography in one place. 

Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2013 at the Photographers' Gallery, at Photographers' GalleryAshitha Nagesh's review of the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2013, at The Photographers' Gallery.4