Pictet Power

The theme for this year’s Prix Pictet is ‘Power’ and you can see an overview of the work by the 12 short-listed photographers on Lensculture, where there are 115 images from them. It’s better to watch the slide show, where they appear a little larger and better. It’s a well-designed slide-show, with captions that you don’t need to use a mouse to see and which don’t obscure the large images, and unlike some it works to show you the pictures without fuss. I only comment because so many sites do it badly.

I first came across the work of Mohamed Bourouissa Périphérique, 2006, made in the tougher suburbs of Paris on show at the  Galerie Fils de Calvaire in Nov 2008, and was impressed enough to write about it here. There are a few pictures I don’t remember in the lensculture slide show, but others that made a strong impression on me at the time and still do.

Daniel Beltrá‘s aerial images of oil spills, which I find mildly interesting in a nice magazine article kind of way, and while the colourist in me sometimes responds to Rena Effendi‘s images in ‘Still Life in the Zone’ from Chernobyl, in the main I find them curiously lacking as still life. This is work where for me the caption is sometimes more important and the pictures look better if I close my eyes.

I wrote at some length about Edmund Clark’s earlier project Still Life: Killing Time in 2007, and was similarly impressed by his ‘Guantanamo: If the Light Goes Out‘ which is up for this prize.  I did actually prepare a longer piece about this, but it never appeared on the web or in print. The reason was simple; I’d seen the work on the wall and had asked for and been promised a review copy, and had put my notes aside waiting for it to appear.  By now they are probably lost.

I’m a great fan of Robert Adams and actually bought several of his books when they first came out (including Denver, The New West, Prairie, Perfect Times… ) but his ‘Turning Back’ doesn’t quite do the same for me, and I think there are a few images in the slide show not up to his former standards. There is a nice interview with him about it on art21.

Philippe Chancel‘s ‘Fukushima: The Irresistible Power of Nature’ has some nice touches, but the presentation doesn’t really work on the scale of the web, becoming fussy but not very informative. I think this is something that really needs to be seen actual size in the gallery.

Luc Delahaye is the only photographer in the dozen who has not presented work from a single project or theme and I find it a little off-putting to jump from image to image. There are some powerful images and some real insight into the subjects in his work, but I think it loses from the diversity.

I think I am missing something in Jacqueline Hassink‘s ‘Arab Domains’ which appear to me to be interesting to students of slightly deranged interior design, but I’m not among them (I can do the slightly deranged but not the interior design.)

Carl De Keyzer‘s Moments Before the Flood as always in his work contains some amazing images, but sometimes they seem too contrived, movie sets rather than life. Perhaps this comes from the way the locations were carefully selected, by his two assistants prospecting for suitable sites on Google Earth.

I’m also a fan of Joel Sternfeld, but his When It Changed, 2007 doesn’t particularly arrest me.  I don’t really see the moment ‘when the horror of what they hear becomes visible on their faces‘ in his portraits taken at the 11th United Nations Conference on Climate Change, in Montreal in 2005. It’s perhaps work that is best seen in the context of his series of 4 book cycle, Sweet Earth, When it Changed, Oxbow Archive and iDubai, which Jessie Wender writes about in The New Yorker.

An-My Lê talks about her work on a California military base, ’29 Palms’ on blip-tv,  and you can read more about this and some of her other work at the Museum of Contemporary Photography. It isn’t work I find of particular interest as photography.

Guy Tillim by contrast works very much in the real thing, photographing at times in what seem very stressful situations in his ‘Congo Democratic’ in the DRC from 1997-2006.

I’ve seldom managed to predict the winner of any of photography’s major prizes, and usually my choice is the kiss of death. Were I on the panel I think I would be pushing for the prize to go to either Bourouissa or Clark, but not too unhappy if others preferred Tillim, De Keyzer or Chancel, and able to live with it going to Adams or Sternfeld because although I don’t feel the work they have presented warrants it they are both photographers with other work I admire.  So that leaves another five who must now be considered the favourites for the prize.

The winner will be announced on 9 Oct, and those of us in London will be able to see the pictures on show at the Saatchi gallery from 10-28 October 2012.

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