On a very, very warm evening last Thursday in Arles, the shortlist for 2019’s edition of the illustrious Prix Pictet was announced. Founded in 2008 by the the Pictet Group, the Prix Pictet has become the world’s leading award for photography and sustainability, harnessing the power of the medium to draw global attention to issues of sustainability, especially those concerning the environment.
This year marks the eighth edition of the prize which, each 18-month cycle, focuses on a single theme that promotes discussion and debate on issues of sustainability. This cycle’s theme is Hope (past themes have included Water, Earth, Growth, Power, Consumption, Disorder and Space) and entry to the competition is strictly by nomination. Of the 12 artists shortlisted this year, one winner will be awarded 100,000 Swiss francs, in turn celebrating a work which most embodies this cycle’s theme.
This year’s shortlist is: Shahidul Alam, born in Bangladesh, based in Dhaka; Joana Choumali, born in Côte d’Ivoire, based in Abidjan; Margaret Courtney-Clarke, born in Namibia, based in Swakopmund; Rena Effendi, born in Baku, based in Istanbul; Lucas Foglia, based in San Francisco; Janelle Lynch, based in New York; Ross McDonnell, born in Ireland, based in New York; Gideon Mendel, born in South Africa, based in London; Ivor Prickett, born in Ireland, based in Europe and the Middle East; Robin Rhode, born in South Africa, based in Berlin; Awoiska van der Molen, based in Amsterdam; Alexia Webster, born in South Africa and based in New York.
A diverse line-up of artists, both in terms of the work they produce and their global spread, each shortlisted photographer demonstrates how increasingly vital artists are in instigating discourse around environmental issues. Margaret Courtney-Clarke, for example, presents an extraordinary body of work produced in the Namib desert, living, collaborating with, and documenting families in desperate, forgotten outposts. Ross McDonnell, on the other hand, documents the improvised prosthetic limbs left behind by patients at the Orthopedic Hospital in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. Joanna Chamali explores both her own trauma and the trauma of the Ivorian people as a whole, using embroidery over images to recover and expel her emotions. And Gideon Mendel presents a series of damaged negatives which document his time as part of a young generation of “struggle photographers” in South Africa, documenting the fight against apartheid. For full details of each artist’s submission, head to the Prix Pictet website.
Prix Pictet Hope’s winner will be announced on Wednesday 13 November 2019, at the opening of an exhibition of the shortlisted artists’ work at the V&A Museum. As is customary, the exhibition will then tour the world, visiting over a dozen countries, starting in Tokyo on 12 December 2019. The Prix Pictet is also published as a book, with extensive documentation of the work of each shortlisted photographer, while also highlighting notable nominees alongside essays by leading writers on the theme of the prize.
Sir David King, chair of the Prix Pictet jury, says: “In selecting the shortlist for this year’s Prix Pictet, we were mindful of the debt of gratitude we owe to the inspirational role of Kofi Annan, as our founding president. Hope, the theme of this year’s Prix Pictet, addresses his personal concerns directly. We believe more than ever, in a world saturated with images, that the profound insights of great photographers can help to bring home to us all the urgency of the environmental issues we are now facing.”
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Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.