Hope – The Prix Pictet

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Perhaps in our ability to carry on in adversity lies hope for us all. Hope that, despite the catastrophic damage that we have visited upon the natural world and upon the lives of our most vulnerable citizens, it is not too late to reverse the damage that we have done.

Kofi Annan (1938-2018), Hon. President, Prix Pictet, 2017

The Prix Pictet aims to harness the power of photography – all genres of photography – to draw global attention to issues of sustainability, especially those concerning the environment. The theme for the eighth cycle of the Prix Pictet is Hope a theme that offers a wide range of creative possibilities and a strong set of connections to the Prix Pictet’s overriding theme of sustainability. Hope in the face of adversity. Recycling. Reforestation. Rewilding. Science – advances in medicine – and technological solutions for global environmental problems. This year’s winner is the Ivorian photographer Joana Choumali who won the Eighth Prix Pictet for her series Ça va aller (it will be ok).

‘Another Way of Looking at Love (2015–18) explores the interconnectedness of all life forms and supports a renewal of human relationships to each other, and to the natural and the spiritual worlds.’

Janelle Lynch, Another Way of Looking at Love.

‘These pictures were taken three weeks after the terrorist attacks in Grand-Bassam on Sunday 13th March 2016. Each stitch was a way to recover, to lay down the emotions, the loneliness, and mixed feelings I felt. As an automatic scripture, the act of adding colourful stitches on the pictures has had a soothing effect on me, like a meditation. Adding embroidery on these street photographs was an act of channelling hope and resilience.’

Joana Choumali, Ça va aller

‘Himmelsrund, which literally translates as the heavens’ rim, was used in the Middle Ages to refer to the celestial firmament as a vaulted disc.’

Awoiska van der Molen, Am schwarzen Himmelsrund

Limbs, a newly published set of photographs by Ross McDonnell, presents the documentation of a set of improvised prosthetic legs that the artist captured at the Orthopedic Hospital in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. Experts state that the success of a prosthetic depends 10% on the object and 90% on the patient’s attitude to it. These images are testament to that attitude.’

Ross McDonnell, Limbs

‘This body of work is a reminder of the power of people to endure and survive no matter what. This selection of images is not an all-encompassing view of war, but rather a beacon of strength in the midst of terrible hardship. They can give us hope despite the challenges we face as a global community.’

Ivor Prickett, End of the Caliphate.

‘Using the street corner as my studio, the photographic work titled Principle of Hope is photographed against a ruined wall in a township in Johannesburg. This dilapidated wall is situated in a disadvantaged community that remains a footprint of the segregated Apartheid era.’

Robin Rhode, Principle of Hope.

‘Namibia is steeped in histories dating from the earliest inhabitants – Khoi, Bushmen, Herero, Namaqua, Damara et al to German occupation, to the South Africans and apartheid, and now to ‘liberation’ and statehood – a nation of diverse peoples and cultures in a vast land of seeming nothingness and unparalleled light. I seek out the traces of their passing on the land.’

Margaret Courtney-Clarke, Cry Sadness into the Coming Rain

‘For centuries, the small villages in Transylvania have maintained hay meadows, raised cattle and operated self-sustainable farms. The agrarian fairy tale that is extinct in Western Europe still exists here, where young boys learn to cut and rake hay by hand, all village women learn to weave, and men can build a house from the materials they have to hand. Today, this world is on the brink of extinction.’

Rena Effendi, Transylvania: Built on Grass.

‘First created in March 2011, the Street Studios Project is a communal family photo album that began with the set-up of free outdoor photographic studios on more than 20 street corners and public spaces around the world. In each community we visited, we created public photo studio sets and invited any passing families and individuals to pose for a portrait. With thousands of photographs taken over almost an 8-year period, Street Studios is an archive of family and love, an archive that documents not what makes things fall apart but what keeps them together.’

Alexia Webster, Street Studios – An Archive of the Heart.

Human Nature is a series of interconnected stories about how we rely on nature in the context of climate change. Each story is set in a different ecosystem: city, forest, farm, desert, ice field, ocean and lava flow. From a newly-built rainforest in urban Singapore to a Hawaiian research station measuring the cleanest air on Earth, the photographs examine our need for ‘wild’ places – even when those places are human constructions.’

Lucas Foglia, Human Nature.

‘And yet she smiles. Gang-raped numerous times as a child, forced into pickpocketing, caned until unconscious, sold to a Madame, Hajera Begum’s life has little that would give cause to smile. Yet she smiles. Remarkably, Hajera is not bitter. While she remembers every detail of her nightmarish life, she also remembers the friends who believed in her and helped her establish the orphanage.’

Shahidul Alam, Still She Smiles.

These images emerge from a time of hope, activism and tragedy. In the 1980s, I was part of a young generation of ‘struggle photographers’ in South Africa, documenting the fight against apartheid. In 1990 I left a box of my outtakes (negatives and transparencies) in storage in Johannesburg, and subsequently forgot about them. A few years ago, they were returned to me and I discovered that at some point in their many years of neglect, the box had been rained on, and the top layers had been affected by both moisture and mould. I found that this process of decay revealed something potent and significant. Could the entropy of these negatives reflect ways in which communal memory of these pivotal events along with the idealism of that period is fading?

Gideon Mendel, Damage: A Testament of Faded Memory.

This weekend is the last chance to catch the Prix Picket exhibition at the V&A.

Text ©Prix Picket, Artwork ©the Artists, images ©Jonathan Dredge.

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