Kofi Annan, Honorary President of the Prix Pictet, announced this evening, Thursday 17 March 2011, Mitch Epstein as the winner of the third Prix Pictet photography prize for environmental sustainability.
The prize is sponsored by the Swiss bank, Pictet & Cie, with a value of 100,000 Swiss Francs (100,000 dollars, £65,000, €80,000).
The announcement was made at the opening of an exhibition of the works of the 12 shortlisted photographers at the Paris gallery, Passage de Ret.
Jacques de Saussure, Senior Partner of Pictet, awarded the 40,000 Swiss Francs (40,000 dollars, €30,000) commission to the US photographer Chris Jordan to undertake a field trip to Northern Kenya where Pictet & Cie is currently supporting the work of the environmental charity, the Tusk Trust.
The two photographers were selected from a shortlist of twelve, namely Christian Als, Edward Burtynsky, Stéphane Couturier, Mitch Epstein, Chris Jordan, Yeondoo Jung, Vera Lutter, Nyaba Leon Ouedraogo, Taryn Simon, Thomas Struth, Guy Tillim and Michael Wolf. Both Burtynsky and Jordan have previously been shortlisted for the Prix Pictet.
The Prix Pictet has as its mission a search for photographs that communicate powerful messages of global environmental significance under a specific theme. For this third Prix Pictet the theme is Growth. The winning artist, Mitch Epstein, was nominated for his series, American Power.
In presenting the award to Mitch Epstein, Kofi Annan said, "It is difficult to look at this exhibition without being moved, even angered. And yet, however bleak their message, the creativity and spirit of these artists also gives us hope that we, the human race, have the capacity to find, to agree and to realise the answers to these challenges. I want to congratulate each of the photographers for the power and beauty of their work."
Sir David King, Chair of the Judges, then read out the Statement of the Jury:
"The Prix Pictet Jury were looking for photography that met three criteria: artistic excellence; powerful story-telling related to the theme of the award; and a coherent series of images with narrative power. The Jury commented on the remarkable quality of the submission of each of the twelve shortlisted artists and on the presentation of their work at the Passage de Retz, Paris.
"After considerable deliberation the Jury were unanimous in their decision to award the prize to Mitch Epstein, whose work most clearly met each of the three criteria. Epstein's epic, beautifully realised photographs employ a vantage point that is so perfect as to subtly disorientate you, while at the same time delivering a message of great power.
"Edward Burtynsky's consistently outstanding work deserves special mention. This year his essay on the pervasiveness of oil is a potent reminder of our dependence for "growth" on this finite and compromised resource."
In awarding the third Prix Pictet Commission, Jacques de Saussure, Senior Partner of Pictet & Cie, said, "On behalf of the Partners of Pictet, I am delighted that Chris Jordan will be undertaking the Pictet Commission in 2011. His haunting images from the Midway atoll have exactly the qualities we are seeking for the Commission."
With each Prix Pictet award, Pictet supports the work of a charity whose work reflects the theme of the prize. In 2011 Pictet is supporting the Nakuprat Conservancy, a Kenyan community conservancy project of the UK-based charity, the Tusk Trust. Tusk is responsible for the development of over forty different programmes of conservation and sustainable community development in 17 African countries.
Chris Jordan will visit Kenya with logistical support from Tusk. His mission is to draw attention to the sustainability issues that face the local communities in the Nakuprat Conservancy region, with particular reference to the theme of 'Growth'. The photographs produced for the Commission will be premiered at an exhibition in London later in 2011.
Charlie Mayhew, CEO of Tusk, said, "The Nakuprat Conservancy is an area riven by tension and conflict between communities competing for livestock, pasture and water – exemplifying the dilemmas of growth posed by the Prix Pictet theme. We are delighted that Pictet & Cie have decided to support the work of Tusk."