Prix Pictet looks at a world running short of space

See how the shortlisted photographers are interpreting the international prize’s 2017 theme
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Sergey Ponomarev  November 16, 2015. Migrants arrive by a Turkish boat near the village of Skala, on the Greek island of Lesbos. The Turkish boat owner delivered some 150 people to the Greek coast and tried to escape back to Turkey; he was arrested in Turkish waters. Series: Europe Migration Crisis 2015. © Prix Pictet Space
Sergey Ponomarev November 16, 2015. Migrants arrive by a Turkish boat near the village of Skala, on the Greek island of Lesbos. The Turkish boat owner delivered some 150 people to the Greek coast and tried to escape back to Turkey; he was arrested in Turkish waters. Series: Europe Migration Crisis 2015. © Prix Pictet Space

The Swiss-backed international prize Prix Pictet aims to recognise excellent photography, while also exploring the global issues surrounding the environment and sustainability.

In the past it has organised shortlisted photographers’ works around appropriate themes, such as water, earth, power and consumption. However, 2017’s theme, space, is less obviously ecological.

 

Thomas Ruff; ma.r.s.08 II; series: ma.r.s. © Prix Pictet Space
Thomas Ruff; ma.r.s.08 II; series: ma.r.s. © Prix Pictet Space

One of 2017’s photographers, the Düsseldorf School’s Thomas Ruff, interprets this theme quite literally, with images of the surface of Mars, taken by a high-resolution camera aboard a NASA spacecraft.

However, others get at the theme more obliquely. The acclaimed Irish photographer and Magnum member Richard Mosse’s work Heat Maps captures European migrants’ journeys using thermal imaging technology; Russia’s Sergey Ponomarev documents the struggle for space within the Middle East; while German photographer Michael Wolf’s Tokyo Compression series looks at the chronic overcrowding on Japanese public transport.

 

Michael Wolf, Tokyo Compression 75; series: Tokyo Compression; 34 x 42 inches; 2009, Tokyo © Prix Pictet Space
Michael Wolf, Tokyo Compression 75; series: Tokyo Compression; 34 x 42 inches; 2009, Tokyo © Prix Pictet Space

There shouldn’t be quite such a squash at the accompanying exhibition, which runs from now until 28 May 2017 at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, though space will be a bit more of a premium on 4 May, when the prize’s honorary president, Kofi Annan, presents the winning photographer with 100,000 Swiss Francs.

 

Richard Mosse Idomeni Series: Heat Maps; digital Chromogenic metallic print; 48 x 120 inches; 2016 Idomeni, Greece © Prix Pictet Space
Richard Mosse Idomeni Series: Heat Maps; digital Chromogenic metallic print; 48 x 120 inches; 2016 Idomeni, Greece © Prix Pictet Space

For more on contemporary photography get Photography Today; for more works by great photographers, past and present, get The Photography Book; and for more on space-saving architecture buy a copy of the small, yet perfectly formed Nanotecture.And if you're looking for more examples of how artists both celebrated and unknown have resisted the powers that be in recent times, check out Liz McQuiston's scholarly but thoroughly readable and copiously illustrated Visual Impact Creative Dissent in the 21st Century.


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