Prix Pictet

I’m pleased to announce I was wrong.

In November, in the post Pictet ‘Growth’ Shortlist I wrote:

I probably shouldn’t condemn any of them to oblivion by naming them as my favourite for the prize, and in any case I think it should receive rather though more than my quick first impression. Particularly because it isn’t just a matter of a single image, but really of a set of pictures, and that does need more consideration. But Mitch Epstein has long been one of my favourite contemporary photographers, Guy Tillim’s work I always find of interest and the show by Taryn Simon was one of the best in recent years at the Photographers’ Gallery. The only work that really appeals that was new to me was by Nyaba Ouedraogo. So probably those four are now the outsiders in the race!

Though when I actually saw the work on the wall in Paris I did change my mind a little, perhaps because I wasn’t entirely happy with the printing of Epstein’s work and there was one really interesting image by Burtynsky (see Thursday Afternoon in Paris 3e for my visit to the show and elsewhere.)

But despite my recommendation, Epstein has won, and you can see a slideshow of his 12 images, along with his accompanying text on Lensculture.  The first image there, of Amos Coal Power Plant, Raymond, West Virginia 2004, is the one that really caused me to have doubts when I saw it in Paris; to me the colour just looks wrong, particularly the grass (and I’m viewing it on a colour-corrected screen with a background image of a grassy hill next to a window that looks out on a lawn.)

I’m actually pretty sure it is wrong, because Mitch Epstein states in his Lensculture piece that he and his wife, writer Susan Bell, have created a web site to share this project, What is American Power? And the first image on this is also  Amos Coal Power Plant, Raymond, West Virginia 2004, but in subtle and beleivable (and probably realistic) colour. While the Pictet print – both for real and on the web – more resembles the kind of early inkjet prints we used to get before people had sussed out things like colour management.

It’s worth looking at the work on the web site, though I found the performance with swirling prints between each picture incredibly maddening, and really had to grit my teeth to click the next button each time. I can’t tell you how many pictures there are or get any real idea about the work as a whole because I couldn’t force myself to sit through more than around a dozen images.  I can’t see any point in this kind of demented web design.

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