Posts tagged ‘theme’

June 4, 2014

Prix Pictet 2013 – Consumption: Study Visit

by Suzy Walker-Toye

Last weekend I attended the study visit to the V&A to visit the Prix Pictet exhibition, The global award in photography and sustainability. I really enjoyed the 2012 exhibition: Power so I was keen on getting to this one. This year the theme was Consumption. All the artists were very different so goodness how they judge this.

Sadly since my visit the winner, Michael Schmidt, has died aged 68.

His entry, the Series: Lebensmittel was really interesting. Initially when I looked at the entries of the all the artists online before the visit it wasn’t one of my favourites, however seeing it all laid out so that it rippled and flowed as a series was most impressive.

(© Michael Schmidt © Prix Pictet 2013):
Michael Schmidt - Lebensmittel, Prix Pictet

As part of the pre-work we were expected to read the following article from Sean O’Hagan of the Guardian. This piece was written before the winner was announced and O’Hagan wanted Rineke Dijkstra to win.

“It is an intimate work about a single subject that is filled with political and cultural resonance.”

Although its a beautiful series of images (of a Bosnian refugee child becoming a woman in the Netherlands) it didn’t seem to be related to the theme so I wasn’t surprised it didn’t win (whether or not Dijkstra is a woman doesn’t come into it really).

Since then Sean O’Hagan has written a obituary for Michael Schmidt here.

If I was going to pick from the women to win I would have thought Laurie Simmons exploration of the unreality of consumer fetishism with the series Love Doll would have been it. She photographically tracks her days with a life-size sex doll trying to give her a personality.

(© Laurie Simmons © Prix Pictet 2013):
Laurie Simmons Prix Pictet
The Love Doll / Day 26 (Shoes)

I think the most visually impressive was the huge scanned creations from Chinese photographer Hong Hao. It was the most literal interpretation on the theme, for 12 years he had individually scanned in many of the items he consumed and then grouped them together into giant collages of “stuff”. One was a great trip down memory lane with retro items such as floppy disks and cassettes. It was interesting to try and discern his criteria for grouping items together. One was the underneaths of items so we were trying to guess what they items might be.

Another artist who’s images I was impressed with was, surprisingly, Mishka Henner. I’m not usually a fan of appropriated images presented as new work but I felt this series of Google earth images, Beef & Oil really highlighted global sustainability issues in a successful and impactful way. It does bring up the usual interesting topics of his he really a photographer or not (because his images are selected from satellites) but the images themselves are beautiful and really bring home what we’re doing to our world.

(© Mishka Henner © Prix Pictet 2013):
Mishka Henner Prix Pictet

The other artists nominated made less of an impression on me and although conceptually interesting, in my on personal opinion, were also-rans.

Motoyuki Daifu‘s series on his family reminded me of a sort of Asian Richard Billingham.

Juan Fernando Herran had a interesting idea for his series Escalas which explored the very edges of cities which were expanding outwards, the first things people do in these makeshift areas are create steps and makeshift walkways in their struggle for space.

Abraham Oghobase‘s untitled series depicted him making various actions in front of walls covered in person graffiti adverts for used cars, piano lessons etc.

Boris Mikhailov‘s series Tea, Coffee & Cappuccino is a street photographers take on the encroachment of the ‘west’ on his village in the Ukraine and the influx of cheap plastic signs and adverts. For me (as a Westerner) it wasn’t the cheap plastic which was the problem but the people taking a crap in the street. Nice.

Allan Sekula‘s series Fish Story is a series of prints exploring the now defunct LA shipyards.

Adam Bartos‘s series Yard Sale addresses the theme from the the other way, recycling by selling on the items you no longer have use for. In the UK car-boot sales are the equivalent and are big business for the farmers who’s land they are hosted on. This series of photographs depicts the way that people lay out all their old stuff in a way that they think other people might be attracted to it and therefore buy it.

I really enjoyed the exhibition, its well worth a visit. You simply cannot get an appreciation of the scale and impact of some of the images shown when you see them on the internet.

The tutor who accompanied us said we should review the exhibition with regard to our own work but on discussion went on to laugh and tell me not to bother when I told him my work was underwater nature photography. “Maybe try taxidermy if you want to photograph animals, thats more artistically interesting”. Thanks. I’ll leave my comments on that small-minded conversation to another post but suffice it to say here that I think I could make a pretty convincing case for showing nature photographs in a sustainability photography prize such as this considering what we’re doing to our planet.

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