arts

Striking photos capture the world's sustainability crisis

Published 6th July 2018
Nadav Kander, Chongqing Municipality
Credit: Courtesy Nadav Kander
Striking photos capture the world's sustainability crisis
Written by Allyssia Alleyne, CNN
Some of the past decade's most striking and pertinent images have gone on display as part of the Prix Pictet's 10th anniversary exhibition at Les Rencontres d'Arles photography fair in France.
Recognized as one of the most prestigious awards for contemporary photography, the Prix Pictet has, since 2008, been awarded to a photographer who covers global sustainability in a thoughtful and visually arresting way.
Past winners include Luc Delahaye, who specializes in conflict photography, documentary photographer Richard Mosse and the late Michael Schmidt, whose work influenced the famed Dusseldorf School of Photography cohort that includes Andreas Gursky and Thomas Ruff.
"The Prix Pictet has been groundbreaking in infiltrating the wider art world -- and not just that of documentary photography -- with critical messages on sustainability," said the prize's jury chair, David King, in an email.
"I believe it has been hugely effective in bringing a new focus to the worldwide sustainability debate, whose essential arguments were in danger of disappearing beneath a torrent of words and a sameness of images."
The works exhibited are as eye-catching as they are diverse, from Valérie Belin's colorful, consumerism-themed images to Mitch Epstein's frightening photos of communities living in the shadows of power plants.
What unites the photographers is, according to King, a "desire to make compelling work that highlights the disastrous consequences of various human actions on the future of the planet."
An image by Benoit Aquin of a motorbike driving through a dust storm in Bayannur, Inner Mongolia.
An image by Benoit Aquin of a motorbike driving through a dust storm in Bayannur, Inner Mongolia. Credit: Benoit Aquin, Benoit Aquin/Benoit Aquin
While acknowledging the difficulty of quantifying how much real-world change the award program has brought about, King hopes the exhibition will act as a catalyst for small-scale progress.
"(I hope visitors leave with) a greater understanding of the key issues of global sustainability, and a motivation to make a positive difference to our future, through their own actions and those of others."