Banking on Photography

This is very much the year of China, so it came as no great surprise to see the winner of the Pix Pictet 2008 was Canadian photographer Benoit Aquin for a series of images, The Chinese ‘Dust Bowl’. The 10 images on the front page of the web site are perhaps a little too small to really judge the images, which are inkjet prints varying from 34×52 cm to 86x132cm  (13×20″ to 34×52″ for those of us who still inhabit an imperial universe.) As in the pictures of Ferit Kuyas who I wrote about earlier in the year and others, China is seen through a dim haze of pollution.

Aquin’s series of pictures would probably not have been my first choice, but certainly would have featured in my top two or three not least for taking the theme of water in the context of sustainability seriously;  it seemed at best peripheral to some other entries.

Those short-listed were Edward Burtynksky, Jesus Abad Colorado, Thomas Joshua Cooper, Sebastian Copeland, Christian Cravo, Lynn Davis, Reza Deghati, Susan Derges, Malcolm Hutcheson, Chris Jordan, Carl De Keyzer, David Maisel, Mary Mattingly, Robert Polidori, Roman Signer, Jules Spinatsch and Munem Wasif.

In another announcement made at the awards ceremony, Munem Wasif was selected for the commission to document WaterAid’s Chittagong Hill Tracts Project in Bangladesh which is supported by Pictet & Cie. If you don’t already know Wasif’s work, his web site is certainly worth a look. He would also certainly have made my top three for the prize.

The prize entries also reflected another big story, Hurricane Katrina, although by now this seems rather passée, although I suspect either of these photographers might have got the award had this been the Prix Pictet 2006, but this year is the first of these competitions. Although I think Aquin’s work was more interesting, I do wonder how this and some other current high-profile work from China will seem to us when the Beijing games are a distant memory, and wonder whether some things are better left to World Press Photo.

You can see more of the pictures entered, along with a commentary by the head of the Prix Pictet jury, Francis Hodgson (a man who thinks stroboscopic lights are  high technology!) on a few selected photographers from those shown on the BBC web site. His comments about the broadest range of photography being invited to take part, even amateurs, is perhaps disingenuous; as my previous post on the Prix Pictet notes, this is a contest that no one can enter, the 18 short-listed photographers being selected by judges from names put forward by 49 leading experts.

I had hoped to get the opportunity to see the works at a preview in London, but this was cancelled at the last minute, probably because bankers were rather busy with other matters. Unfortunately I was too busy to take up my invitation to the opening of the show in Paris last week, where Kofi Annan awarded the £50,000 prize, and the show of short-listed works at the Palais de Tokyo closes on 8 November 2008, a couple of days before I arrive in Paris.

Rt Click, View image to see larger
‘Jump You Bankers’

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