Collage: Women of the Prix Pictet since 2008
Collage showcases the recent work of sixty-four outstanding women in photography, all of whom have been shortlisted or nominated for the prestigious Prix Pictet award.
‘It is the photographer’s job to synthesise and to make strong and poetic work from daily life.’ – Graciela Iturbide, in conversation with Michael Benson
The Prix Pictet was founded in 2008 with the ambition of highlighting urgent environmental and social issues through photography. Since then, 1200 women have been nominated for the prize, with Valérie Belin succeeding as the first woman laureate in 2015. She was followed in 2019 by Joana Choumali, and by Sally Mann in 2021.
‘Communication has become essential … and photography is probably the most effective because it is immediate and instantaneous. It is critically important to ask artists to use their creativity to address the immense challenges we face.’ – Kofi Annan, Founding President of the Prix Pictet, 2008
Despite recent recognition, the Prix Pictet is aware that more work is needed to increase the visibility of women photographers. This is the goal of their new publication Collage: Women of the Prix Pictet Since 2008, which Prix Pictet Executive Director Isabelle von Ribbentrop describes as an opportunity ‘to reflect, widen our vision a little and place the work of women photographers in the spotlight’.
All women nominees from the prize’s history were invited to submit recent work addressing issues of sustainability. The work of sixty-four photographers was selected for publication by guest editor Fiona Shields of The Guardian, among them Contemporary Heroines Cristina de Middel, Polly Braden, Chloe Dewe Mathews, Taryn Simon, Joana Choumali, Gohar Dashti, Rena Effendi, Rinko Kawauchi, An-My Lê, Diana Markosian and Vanessa Winship.
The Prix Pictet defines sustainability broadly, including social problems which are inextricably intertwined with environmental issues; migration, war, education, human trafficking. Polly Braden’s series Holding the Baby, for example, considers the impact of governmental austerity measures on single parents. Cristina de Middel’s Una Piedra en el Camino pictures Central America migration as an adventure akin to Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth – something heroic and daring, rather than an act of flight.
The book contains three essays by the most recent Prix Pictet awardee Sally Mann, Jan Dalley of the Financial Times, and Prix Pictet Director Michael Benson respectively – the latter in conversation with Contemporary Heroine Graciela Iturbide.
The collection presents itself as ‘a powerful collage and a beacon of inspiration for future generations of female photographers’ (Isabelle von Rippentrop). While Jan Dalley questions whether there is such a thing as ‘women’s photography’ or a ‘feminine sensibility in the genre’, there is an acknowledgement that the challenges faced by women on the path to success offer an importantly distinctive worldview.
Collage: Women of the Prix Pictet since 2008 is published by gestalten and is available to purchase here.
By Emma Godfrey Pigott