Prix Pictet - Consumption at East Wing

© Allan Sekula - Fish Story

© Allan Sekula - Fish Story


Prix Pictet "Consumption" will be exhibited at East Wing in Dubai from 15th January - 26th February 2015. The themes in the last four cycles were Power, Growth, Earth, Water

The prize was founded in 2008 by Pictet, a Swiss asset and wealth management group established in 1805. Prix Pictet has gained global recognition for showcasing leading photographers’ contribution to the debate about the most pressing social and environmental challenges today. Since its inception, nearly 70 of the world’s leading photographers have been shortlisted for the Prix Pictet

Earlier this year at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Kofi Annan, Honorary President of Prix Pictet, announced that the German photographer Michael Schmidt had won Prix Pictet Consumption for Lebensmittel his monumental survey of the food industry. The exhibition then toured to Barcelona, Thessaloniki, Turin, Zurich, Luxemborug, Munich, Mexico and will visit Brussels in the new year. 

Sadly Michael Schmidt died on 24th May, just three days after having won the Prix Pictet, his first international award.


Lebensmittel - Michael Schmidt (Germany)

Michael Schmidt’s ability to translate apparently contradictory elements of his photography into a valid form puts him in an outstanding position among contemporary photographers. Though he adopts an unusual position with his constantly different approach to photographic and social questions, his innovative project-led working methods and his extreme commitment have made him a model for a generation of young photographers.

Unlike some of Schmidt’s earlier series, these photographs do not strike an attitude of rage or accusation. On the contrary, his way of looking at things is characterised by extreme lucidity and rigour. His view of bread baskets, cages in fish farms or apple-washing plants has a serial analytical quality that is sometimes reminiscent of the objective photography of the 1920s. But it is precisely the contradiction between classical photographers’ latently optimistic approach, who stage their industrial production motifs in a perfect aesthetic and Schmidt’s realistic view that makes a distressing impression when looking at the project as a whole: individual images demand objective consideration, while the series persistently undermines the apparently dominant objectivity by means of its composition of repetitions, accentuations and rhythms, and the many links between the photographs.

Shortlisted Artists

Yard Sale by Adam Bartos (United States)

Yard sales, highly popular across the United States, affordably recycle essential household goods and clothing within local communities, significantly extend the life of objects, help to regulate overconsumption, and reduce waste.

Originally an unintentional sustainability practice, this form of localised business has grown during the recession. The yard sale economy contrasts starkly with the Walmartisation of America, which relies heavily on the rapid exploitation of natural resources, and employs fossil-fuel intensive processes to enable the ever increasing global manufacture and transport of new goods to market.

Project Family - Motoyuki Daifu (Japan)

My mother sleeps every day. My dad does chores. My brothers fight. There are trash bags all over the place. Half-eaten dinners, cat poop, mountains of clothes: this is my lovable daily life, and a loveable Japan.

Almerisa - Rineke Dijkstra (The Netherlands)

Dijkstra met the subject of what would become her longest-running series to date while making portraits at a refugee centre in Leiden, The Netherlands. Five years old at the time, Almerisa arrived with her family from Bosnia (by way of Austria and Germany) just two weeks earlier. Dijkstra prepared a small, bare studio with a chair in the corner of the room where the girl was staying. In the resulting image, with her brightly coloured Bosnian-chic dress, straightforward pose, and direct, intense gaze, Almerisa offers striking contrast to the empty beige walls and floors that surround her.

In each of the 10 images, Almerisa is centred in the middle of the frame and shown seated against a wall or window in a neutral area of the place she was living at the time of the portrait. Typically made one or two years apart, each photograph shows how Almerisa’s appearance changes with her adjustment to Dutch culture. From a shy Bosnian girl she grows up to be a young Western woman who wears the right branded clothes and fashionable make-up. But Almerisa is also a girl who needs these clothes and make-up to build up her own image, her own self, just as she sees everyone else doing, around her as well in the omnipresent Western media (and she keeps doubting about wearing shoes in the house – Bosnians don’t).

My Things - Hong Hao (China)

My Things, a project that I started from 2001, is a photography series created by scanning objects. I’ve been working on this project for 12 years. Twelve years, in Chinese traditional concept, represents the period of transmigration in cycles of different fate and destiny. The process of producing works of this series is an assignment associated with one’s life trace.

Day by day, I put my daily consumed objects into a scanner piece by piece, like keeping a visual diary. After scanning the original objects, I’ll save them in digital forms and categorise these digital files into different folders in my PC, in order to make a collage of them later on. This task, like yogi’s daily practice, has become a habit in my day-to-day life as well as a tool to observe the human condition in contemporary consumer society.

Beef and Oil - Mishka Henner (United Kingdom)

In this series, large-scale photographic prints depict landscapes carved by industries meeting extraordinary levels of consumer demand for two of North America’s most precious commodities: beef and oil.

Seen from the perspective of satellites orbiting Earth, these landscapes represent a systematic intent to maximise production and yield in order to satisfy extraordinary levels of human consumption.

The result is a natural landscape transformed into something not too dissimilar from the circuit boards that drive the logistical operations of these industries, and ultimately, feed consumers’ appetites for these resources.

Escalas - Juan Fernando Herrán (Colombia)

I choose to focus on ordinary, everyday scenes and the search of formal solutions to translate this monotony into photography. These are photos I took over the last ten years (2000-2010) about the current state of affairs. I continue my search for a photographic means to reflect the changes occurring in our lives. A new age has come – the age of business. 

Everything can be bought and sold – even children. Old women have started wheeling around trolleys full of their commodities, calling out “Tea, Coffee, Cappuccino”, the ‘preambulatory product’ of the age, also provided the title of this series. The reality of globalisation has come and extended to the places where we live and rest. A flux of cheap commodities has conquered ubiquitously, creating a colourful new plastic reality.

Untitled - Abraham Oghobase (Nigeria)

The commercial capital of the country, is a city of over 10 million people where competition for space is a daily struggle and extends from accommodation to advertising (and everything in between). As such, every available space, from signboards to the sides of buildings, are indiscriminately plastered with hundreds of handbills and posters and scrawled with text advertising the many and diverse services offered by the city’s enterprising residents and drivers of a robust large informal economy.

Validating the authenticity of the information contained in these ads becomes quite a complex task for the consumer, however, due to the disorganised mode of presentation and often incomplete details. My engagement with one such wall of ‘classifieds’ serves to question the effectiveness of such guerilla marketing. 

Fish Story - Allan Sekula (United States)

In July of 1989, the last unionised shipyard in Los Angeles harbor closed. Although Los Angeles now handles the largest volume of maritime trade of any port in the Americas, ships are no longer built here. The remaining yard repairs Navy ships returning from the Persian Gulf, and breaks up obsolete aircraft carriers and submarines, employing workers recruited in Matamoros, across the Mexican border from Brownsville, Texas. Most of the giant container ships, stacked high with the uniform metal boxes that give this trade the appearance of a purely abstract movement of goods, are built now by the underpaid and overworked and increasingly militant welders and pipefitters and shipwrights of South Korea. The abandoned shipyards of Los Angeles and San Francisco now come to life briefly as sets for Hollywood films, fictional sites of crime, romance, and espionage.

Movies are made here, but otherwise the industrial appearance of the port is misleading. This is a place of accelerated flows, of global distribution. Some functions hypertrophy while others atrophy. Similar things have happened in Newcastle and Glasgow, the great shipbuilding cities of the first and second industrial revolutions. The Swan Hunter shipyard in Wallsend-on-Tyne survives with a occasional Royal Navy contract. The deserted quays along the Tyne now provide “atmosphere” for neo-noir crime dramas such as Get Carter and Stormy Monday. In Glasgow, civic boosters stage a “Garden Festival” on the ruins of the old Clydeside industrial waterfont.

The Love Doll - Laurie Simmons (United States)

In 2009, I began a new chapter in my work and ordered a custom, high-end “Love Doll” from Japan. I documented my photographic relationship with this human scale “girl,” depicting the latex doll in an ongoing series of “actions”—each shown and titled chronologically from the day I received the doll and describing the relationship I developed with my new model.

I was immediately fascinated and disturbed by the idea that a body—this life-size, lifelike body—could be bought and arrived packaged in a box, a woman/girl entering your home as a commodity ready to be used and fetishized. Something very direct and melancholic emerges, particularly in the first photographs I took with the doll. The Love Doll is originally produced to be a mute surrogate body, a substitute for a human being manufactured solely for pleasure and desire. I began to tease out a personality from this commodified subject and allowed her persona to emerge.