The world’s leading prize for photography, the Prix Pictet, has announced its shortlist of 13 photographers. The prize aims to draw on the power of photography to draw global attention to issues of sustainability, especially those concerning the environment.
The international photography award, now in its ninth cycle, has shortlisted photographers from countries including Austria, Belgium, Benin, Cambodia, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa, Switzerland and the USA.
The theme for this cycle was ‘Fire’, with all the nominated photographers producing bodies of work that addressed the theme.
“Fire has hardly been out of the news since the inferno that consumed Notre Dame in Paris in early 2019. We have seen record rainforest blazes in the Amazon, forest and bush fires in Australia and conflagrations in California. It is the fourth element. Fire destroys and it renews. Fire means survival, renewal, and economic prosperity. Yet our abuse of this most capricious of elements is the source of most of our environmental woes,” says Chair Stephen Barber.
Each cycle of the Prix Pictet tours the world and holds exhibitions in over a dozen countries annually, bringing the work of the shortlisted photographers to a wide international audience.
The winner will be announced on 15 December 2021, at the opening of the exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The prize is 100,000 Swiss francs (€91,000), which will be awarded to the photographer whose body of work speaks most powerfully to the theme of Fire.
The Prix Pictet Finalists
Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige (Lebanon) - Born 1969 in Beirut, based in France and Lebanon
Series: Wonder Beirut, 1998-2006
Wonder Beirut is an ongoing project based on a series of postcards from the 1960s and 1970s. The places they depict were destroyed or altered in the bombardments or subsequent reconstruction programmes. A fictional photographer character was created, who supposedly took the photographs that were used in the postcards, and then burned them himself to record the impact of street battles during the Lebanese civil wars.
Rinko Kawauchi (Japan) - Born 1972 in Shiga Prefecture, Japan, based in Tokyo
Series: Hanabi, 2001
Between 1997 and 2001, when Kawauchi was living alone in Tokyo and in the process of making her earliest works, she photographed fireworks every summer. Hanabi is a collection of photographs representing this body of work.
Sally Mann (USA) - Born 1951, Lexington, Virginia, USA, based in USA
Series: Blackwater, 2008-2012
For her series Blackwater, Mann explored the great Dismal Swamp in Virginia, documenting the vast fires and thick smoke that consumed the swamp during her visit and seemed to epitomise the great fire of racial strife across America.
Christian Marclay (USA) - Born 1955 in the USA, based in UK
Series: Fire, 2020
Fire is a series of photographic prints that began as small-scale collages featuring fragments from comic books, movie stills and images found on the internet. Fire, 2020, is a video animation made from paper cut-outs from comic book illustrations of fire. More than 1,500 photographs shown in rapid succession suggest a flip book, creating the illusion of a flickering fire.
Fabrice Monteiro (Belgium) - Born 1972 in Belgium, based in Dakar, Senegal
Series: The Prophecy, 2013 - 2020
The Prophecy began in 2013 when Moneteiro returned to Africa after several years and discovered that devastating pollution had overtaken the continent. The series was based on nine environmental problems in Senegal, including forest fires, plastic waste and oil spills, and was gradually expanded to address worldwide pollution. This theme is personified in the photos of various figures who were inspired by West African masquerades and animism.
Lisa Oppenheim (USA) - Born 1975 USA, based in USA
Series: Smoke, 2012 - ongoing
The presence of fire is indicated by smoke even if it remains unseen. Using found images in newspapers or the internet, Oppenheim ‘reprocesses’ the photographs in the darkroom, using the light of a match to expose the negative.
Mark Remissa (Cambodia) - Born 1970 in Cambodia, based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Series: Left 3 Days, 2014
Left 3 Days recalls Remissa’s memories from his childhood during the Cambodian genocide, particularly on 17 April 1975 when Khmer Rouge troops took control and occupied Phnom Penh.
Carla Rippey (USA) - Born 1950 in USA, based in Mexico City, Mexico
Series: Immolation, 2009-2019
Rippey’s series Immolation began in 2010 with a series of artist’s books made from images of fire collected in magazines, newspapers and the internet: juxtaposing images of volcanoes and people set on fire (lynchings in Mexico), throwing fire (Palestinians) or people setting themselves on fire in acts of desperation. To make the collages, Rippey transfers photocopies to Japanese papers using solvent and an etching press.
Mark Ruwedel (USA) - Born 1954 in Pennsylvania, USA, based in California, USA
Series: LA Fires, 2017-2020
LA Fires is a series of photographs selected from Ruwedel’s four-part, in-progress project titled “Los Angeles: Landscapes of Four Ecologies”. The photographs document the La Tuna fire in 2017, considered to be the largest fire in the history of the city.
Brent Stirton (South Africa) - Born 1969 in Durban, South Africa, based in New York, USA
Series: Burns Capital of the World, 2013
Burns Capital of the World documents young victims recovering from severe burns in India. Despite over six million people being burnt every year, India has very few burns facilities at clinics and hospitals and the best of these are very expensive.
David Uzochukwu (Nigeria/Austria) - Born 1998 in Austria, based in Germany/Belgium
Series: In The Wake, 2020
In The Wake is a series of portraits set within a landscape on fire. With all historic and geographic markers removed from each image, the bodies in the photographs are submerged into the landscape and removed from the confines of their social reality.
Daisuke Yokota (Japan) - Born 1983 in Saitama Prefecture, Japan, based in Japan
Series: Matter/Burn Out, 2016
Matter / Burn Out documents the burning of Yokota’s large-scale installation of photographic prints, titled ‘Matter’, at Aichi Triennial held in August 2016. This ‘burn out’ process was documented in 4,000 photographs, whereby the data was processed, manipulated and revived to form the new work titled Matter / Burn Out.