French photographer Luc Delahaye wins Prix Pictet

By Culture24 Reporter | 10 October 2012
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A photo of an army of journalists trying to get quotes from people sitting at desks
Luc Delahaye, 132nd Ordinary Meeting of the Conference (September 2004). OPEC headquarters, Vienna. Digital C-print© Luc Delahaye, Prix Pictet Ltd. Courtesy Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
Luc Delahaye, the French photographer who caused controversy by abandoning press photography for large-scale artistic shots hung in galleries and museums, has been announced as this year’s winner of socio-environmental prize the Prix Pictet.

Delahaye turned his back on photojournalism in 2001, a year in which he won the World Press Photo award for a third time. He has since won the Deutsche Börse, in 2005, and exhibited worldwide, including at Tate Modern last year, where a landscape photo of the after-effects of a Taliban bomb featured.

The judges of the £100,000 Prix Pictet chose a number of arresting works by Delahaye. A Lunch at the Belvedere, taken at the World Economic Forum in 2004, contrasts sharply with A Mass Grave Near Snagovo, Bosnia, from 2006. An Ambush in Iraq is covered in grey mist, while the aftermath of an attack in Indonesia is strewn with the debris of houses, palm trees swaying in the distance.

“I try to put myself in situations that I feel have a certain relevance regarding what we call a shared destiny,” said the artist in his accompanying statement, pursuing “photography’s phenomenological hold on the real.”

“The reality I’m interested in is that of people who struggle to act upon it as much as they are subject to it.

“I sometimes work where power presents itself as a spectacle, as an event produced for or with the media, and my pictures may then take an ironic undertone.

“But I photograph the ordinary man more often than the leader. I usually stay at the distance where the human relationships are visible, multiple, active and where they remain problematic."

The Pictet’s four themes are Power, Growth, Earth and Water. This year’s award is based on the Power category, uniting 12 finalists for an exceptional show at the Saatchi Gallery which will tour internationally.

The subject matters pull few punches: the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is chronicled by Daniel Beltrá, and Joel Sternfeld’s shots capture the sinking feeling at the 11th United Nations Conference on Climate Change, held in Montreal in 2011.

“What I heard and saw in Montreal shocked me as nothing else,” says the acclaimed New York artist, discussing a body of photos he has called When it Changed.

“I went there wondering if climate change existed, but most of the 20,000 delegates were already considering the possibility that it not only existed, but was about to become irreversible.

“I took photographs of the participants at moments when the horror of what they were hearing about ecological collapse was most visible on their faces.

“By the title, I also meant to refer to the possibility of a hopeful turning point. In the past few years increasing recognition of the danger has led to many positive responses across the globe to confront humanity’s greatest challenge.

“If these efforts are successful then this current period will be the time when the essential human-earth relationship changed.”

  • The Prix Pictet Power exhibition is at the Saatchi Gallery, London, until October 28 2012. Visit the show online at www.prixpictet.com or follow Prix Pictet on Twitter @prixpictet.

More pictures:

A photo of people in Haiti running away from a catastrophe among a rubble-strewn site
Luc Delahaye, Les Pillards (January 2010). Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Digital C-print© Luc Delahaye, Prix Pictet Ltd. Courtesy Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
A dramatic overhead picture of a section of burning coral in vivid dark and light blue
Oil mixed with dispersant rises up to the surface near one of the relief wells in Daniel Beltrá's Oil Spill #4 (May 2010). Gulf of Mexico. C-print© Daniel Beltrá, Prix Pictet Ltd
A photo of a group of people engaged in deep conversation in suits at a conference
Stéphane Dion, Minister of the Environment, Canada, pictured deep in conversation as part of Joel Sternfeld's series, When it Changed (Montréal, Canada, November-December 2005). Pigment print© Joel Sternfeld, Prix Pictet Ltd
A black and white photo of a war zone among mountains with soldiers and helicopters
An-My Lê,, Embassy Medevac (2003-2004). Twentynine Palms, California. Gelatin silver print© An-My Lê, Prix Pictet Ltd
A photo of a prisoners' camp under mesh wire with green illuminated flooring
Edmund Clark, Camp one, Exercise Cage (2009). Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility, Cuba. From the series Guantanamo: If the Light Goes Out. Digital C Type print© Edmund Clark, Prix Pictet Ltd
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