Great photo’s, but if the world is any less fucked for them I’m a coconut. (let’s face it we’re only talking about this award because the winner gets £50000)


On the Prix Pictet website Kofi Annan has said that,

The photographs were a compelling call for action to tackle climate change, the most serious humanitarian and environmental challenge facing the world today: “Only weeks separate us from the decisive negotiations on climate change in Copenhagen. We are confronted with the vital need to prepare the political momentum necessary for a fair and effective post-Kyoto agreement. The images in front of us remind us of the fragility of our planet and the damage we have already done. When we see these photographs we cannot close our eyes and remain indifferent. Through our actions and voices, we must keep building the pressure to secure urgent action at Copenhagen and beyond.”

duckrabbit must be completely missing something because without accompanying commentary I cannot see how these beautiful photographs tell a story about climate change that can have any impact? By saying they do is like declaring the impotency of photography. Infact if you read Nadav’s thoughtful personal statement he doesn’t even mention climate change.

Are these photo’s, and the bankability of the photographer, being manipulated to fuel an agenda that was never intended to be there? It is interesting that for the second year running a story about China has been picked. When it comes to the environment the West loves to beat up China. With this in mind duckrabbit wonders if the judges were making a very political statement by once again picking photographs of China?

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The Prix Pictet is the world’s first prize dedicated to photography and sustainability. It has a unique mandate – to use the power of photography to communicate crucial messages to a global audience; and it has a unique goal – art of the highest order, applied to the immense social and environmental threats of the new millennium.

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  • The ‘why China again’ thought struck me as well.
    It’s strong work and I’m glad it wasn’t one of the more fluffy projects (Mt Fuji etc – which by the way is pretty old work) which won the prize. I am happy to see that Ed Kashi won the Madagascar commission because for me his work was the one which hit all the right notes in terms of what this year’s Pictet was meant to be about.
    Some of the people in the running for that prize are able to sell their prints for huge sums of money, so it’s also great that strong photojournalism – so hard for people to fund and get published these days – is getting support through the prize jury in this way.
    For another take on Chinese pollution – this time by local photographer Lu Guang, who has just won the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography – see this http://www.chinahush.com/2009/10/21/amazing-pictures-pollution-in-china/ Worrying stuff.

  • I agree. I saw Nadav Kander presenting this project – following the Yellow River from ocean to source I believe – at a PhotoVoice talk in London last year. I like the work but never got the impression it was aimed at highlighting climate change. I came across Lu Guang’s work a week or two ago on the NYT website and think it is a much stronger set on the subject (though see below). I think there is a legitimate reason to focus on China – not to politically ‘bash’ but to highlight the communities seriously impacted by China’s economic development, particularly in regards to health and livelihood. Whether that warrants selecting photos of China two years running is doubtful – they should probably spread their focus more equally. From what little I know most advanced economies have gone through a similar phase of fucking up their environment before trying to sort it out at a later date (i.e. air pollution, soil degradation, pollution of rivers etc.). I don’t think being critical from the comfort of an OECD environmentally sound haven provides many legs to stand on. Not that should give a carte blanche to ride rough shod over the environment but it does seem a little like ‘do as I say, not as I do’ – or something like that. One also might want to distinguish between industrial pollution and production of green house gases, which are two different things, no?

  • Thanks for that Rob and Ciara,

    Yes I saw those other extraordinary photos on pollution in China. Important work. I agree also there needs to be focus on China, but as Rob points out it needs to be balanced. And yes industrial pollutiona and green houses gases are totally separate, although both a product of energy production/consumption. One will affect the quality of the environment now, another is a factor (one of many) in climate change.

duckrabbit is a production company formed by radio producer/journalist Benjamin Chesterton and photographer David White. We specialize in digital storytelling.

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