American artist Sally Mann has just been announced as the winner of the 9th Prix Pictet, the global award in photography and sustainability. Mann picked up a prize of some 100,000 Swiss Francs (£82,000, USD109,000) and beat our own favourite Rinko Kawauchi.
The announcement at Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London, marks the opening of a major exhibition showcasing the twelve bodies of work shortlisted for the prize. Each of these explores the topical theme of ‘Fire’, the focus of this cycle of the award.
The shortlist for this years award was particularly strong and featured the likes of Rinko Kawauchi with her Hanabi (Fireworks) series from 2001. Christian Marclay’s 2020 series Fire are photographic prints that began as small-scale collages featuring fragments from comic books, movie stills and images found on the internet. A powerful entry from David Uzochukwu entitled In The Wake features portraits set within a landscape on fire.
Sally Mann in the end was a worthy winner with Blackwater. Here Mann explored the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia, documenting the vast fires and thick smoke that consumed the swamp during her visit and which seemed to epitomise the great fire of racial strife in America. (b. 1951) is known for her photographs of intimate and familiar subjects rendered both sublime and disquieting. Her works explore family, social realities and the passage of time, capturing tensions between nature, history, and memory.
Mann’s winning series Blackwater (2008-2012) is a multifaceted exploration of the devastating wildfires that enveloped the Great Dismal Swamp in southeastern Virginia, where the first slave ships docked in America. In this work, Mann draws a parallel between the all-consuming wildfires she encountered there with racial conflict in America, explaining “The fires in the Great Dismal Swamp seemed to epitomise the great fire of racial strife in America – the Civil War, emancipation, the Civil Rights Movement, in which my family was involved, the racial unrest of the late 1960s and most recently the summer of 2020. Something about the deeply flawed American character seems to embrace the apocalyptic as solution.”
Born in Lexington, Virginia, Mann began studying photography in the late 1960s. Her first solo museum exhibition was at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, in 1977. From the late 1990s into the 2000s, Mann focused on the American South, taking photographs in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana for her series Deep South (2005), as well as Civil War battlefields for Last Measure (2000). A Thousand Crossings, Mann’s recent survey exhibition, explores the identity of the American South and Mann’s relationship with her place of origin. It debuted at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in 2018 and travelled extensively. Mann is a Guggenheim fellow, three-time recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and was named “America’s Best Photographer” by TIME magazine in 2001.
In a statement issued today on behalf of the Prix Pictet Jury, Sir David King, Chairman of the Jury, said: “If ever there was a time for the Prix Pictet to take up the theme of Fire, that time is now. This past summer we were inundated with images of fire at its most frighteningly destructive… Of course, fire is a most capricious element, and its various faces were present in the group of shortlisted series.
The jury considered an exceptional group of artists, each of whom demonstrated a highly distinctive approach to the theme, at times challenging our understanding of what photography can be. Sally Mann’s series in particular is a brilliant repurposing of historic photographic process to tell a chilling contemporary story. At the end of a rich debate the jury were unanimous in their decision that she was a worthy winner of the 9th Prix Pictet.”
The free exhibition at the V&A of the work of the shortlisted photographers, listed below, is on show until 9 January 2022.
Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige (Lebanon)
Rinko Kawauchi (Japan)
Sally Mann (USA)
Christian Marclay (USA/ Switzerland)
Fabrice Monteiro (Belgium/Benin)
Lisa Oppenheim (USA)
Mak Remissa (Cambodia)
Carla Rippey (Mexico)
Mark Ruwedel (USA)
Brent Stirton (South Africa)
David Uzochukwu (Austria/Nigeria)
Daisuke Yokota (Japan)
Each cycle of the Prix Pictet tours globally, with exhibitions in over a dozen locations, bringing the work of the shortlisted photographers to a wide international audience. The Prix Pictet award is accompanied by a full-colour book published by teNeues, covering in detail the work of the shortlisted photographers, together with selected images from the wider group of nominees, and essays on the theme of the prize by leading thinkers and writers.
The eight previous Prix Pictet winners are Benoit Aquin (Water), Nadav Kander (Earth), Mitch Epstein (Growth), Luc Delahaye (Power), Michael Schmidt (Consumption), Valérie Belin (Disorder), Richard Mosse (Space) and Joana Choumali (Hope).
Prix Pictet: Fire is on at the V&A until 9 January 2022. Admission free
For more information visit about the V & A visit www.vam.ac.uk
For more information about the Prix Pictet visit: www.prixpictet.com
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