Prix Pictet 2011: More than Just Pretty Pictures

An annual photography competition dedicated to sustainability.

“Many photographers are concerned about our world and are producing work that, while often beautiful, still has a very powerful message for us: This is not art for art’s sake, it is art for our own sake.”
– Joerg Colberg, photographer, critic and Prix Pictet nominator.

The Prix Pictet was launched three years ago by the Swiss private bank, Pictet & Cie. Photographers are challenged to create a series of images that expose major social and environmental issues facing our time. It isn’t about just “art” or “photojournalism,” and it certainly isn’t about a specific people, race or region.

The themes for the first two years of the competition were Water and Earth, respectively, and this year’s theme Growth proved to be just as challenging and inspiring. How does one confront such a grand idea, the need for advancements yet the fear of too much too fast, via pictures? The website describes Growth as follows:

“…growth is a paradox. Just as growth threatens to bring environmental catastrophe, so it improves the health and living standards of untold millions around the world. We now face a global crisis in land use and agriculture that could undermine the health, security, and sustainability of our civilization…Meeting these huge new demands will be one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century.”

The participating photographers were nominated by a group of experts from around the world that included museum directors and curators, critics and journalists. Then a small jury got to work choosing the “shortlist,” or the work that best communicated the theme. The 2011 shortlist of twelve photographers was announced last November.

A winner will be announced March 17, but there aren’t any losers in this group. Yes, it’s a competition and about $100,000 is at stake, but all of these images are stunning, poignant and prove to successfully communicate an important message.

Here are the twelve photographers and a link to their series of images on Growth:


Christian Als: Kibera – The Shadow City (above)


Edward Burtynsky: Oil (above and top)


Stéphane Couturier: Melting Point (above)


Mitch Epstein: American Power (above)


Chris Jordan: Midway: Message from the Gyre (above)


Yeondoo Jung: Evergreen Tower (above)


Vera Lutter: Body of Work (above)


Nyaba Leon Ouedraogo: The Hell of Copper (above)


Taryn Simon: An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar (above)


Thomas Struth: Paradise (above)


Guy Tillim: Petros Village (above)


Michael Wolf: Architecture of Density (above)

From this group the 2011 winner will be chosen, as well as a Commission winner. The latter is picked by the Partners of Pictet & Cie, and invited to travel to a part of the world where the Bank is involved in a sustainability project. This year it’s the Tusk Trust in Africa.

A big bank putting money somewhere other than its own pocket? Round of applause, please.

The winners will be announced by Kofi Annan, Honorary President of the Prix Pictet, on opening night (March 17) of an exhibition honoring all twelve photographers at the Passage de Retz gallery in Paris. The exhibition will run from March 17 through April 16.

1 thought on “Prix Pictet 2011: More than Just Pretty Pictures

  1. The photos can be nominated for awards actually! Thanks for sharing the photos. But I think it could have been better to see these on wallpaper sizes and it has download links.

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