The Prix Pictet prize, founded in 2008 by private Swiss bank Pictet & Cie, counts itself among the most prestigious prizes in the world when it comes to photography and sustainability. The theme for this years prize is "Power" and all the issues that lie therein. These range from questions of resource depletion to sexist stereotypes at play in our global society.
There is often a slight stuntedness and sense of predictability to an exhibition with a bit of an agenda, as is the case with the Prix Pictet. To a certain extent, there are some photographic themes that you know are going to make an appearance. Guy Tillim's series of pictures from Congo, documenting the democratic struggle of the country, is perhaps one of these. Mohamed Bourouissa's scenes of social discontent in the French urban landscape is perhaps another.
The most impressive pictures are ones that move or impact the spectator in a somehow unexpected way. Luc Delahaye's images of conflict might not be anything new in terms of subject matter, but the directness with which they portray their subjects is striking. There is an eerie detachment to the way the pictures are composed.
The same is true of An-My Le's images taken during military training operations. The series is striking for both the stillness of tanks moving across a dessert landscape in black and white, and the frantic movement of light in the pictures taken at night.
Edmund Clark's Guantanamo: If The Lights Go Out, while considering a very poignant issue, fails to give the discussion any new life. With the saturation of images and discussion regarding Guantanamo on the internet and in the news over the last few years, Clark's stark images of detention cells and prison interiors feel a little old hat.
The most striking images of the exhibition are David Beltra's Spill series. The collection of photos captures the Deepwater Horizon crisis in the Gulf of Mexico from a bird's eye view. The images of oil spreading across beautiful blue ocean is a reminder of the catastrophic damage our activity can have in to the natural way, but they are captured in such a way as to make to it appear beautiful. The blooms of oil across the water are made up of fantastic colours and shapes, almost seeming artificially orchestrated. It's strange to find images of such a horrific event so compellingly beautiful.
All of the photos in this exhibition are very well executed, and there is probably more to be had from this exhibition by other photographers. As a collection of images orbiting the issues of sustainability and power, there are a lot of interesting and important issues being discussed. As an exhibition of art pieces, some of the works do veer towards the mundane and are undeniably more concerned with their conceptual impact than their aesthetic effect. But other pieces are truly stunning and moving images that probably deserve a wider audience.