Posts Tagged ‘Benoit Aquin’

2008 Prix Pictet Winner Announced

November 1, 2008

Untitled 08, Genghis Khan Braving the Storm
Series: The Chinese “Dust Bowl”
Ink Jet Art Canvas
70 X 107 cm
Xilinhot City, Inner Mongolia, Chin

Congratulations to Benoit Aquin, for his win of the 2008 Prix Pictet Prize, the largest photographic prize on the subject of sustainability.

From the newsroom and official press release, Kofi Annan, Nobel Laureate and Former Secretary General of the United Nations, yesterday evening announced the winner of the inaugural Prix Pictet as Canadian photographer Benoit Aquin at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris. The £50,000 (CHF 100,000) Prix Pictet is the only photography prize to focus on the most important global issue of our time: sustainability. For the Prix Pictet’s inaugural year the focus was on water.

Each year the Prix Pictet will address a distinct sustainability issue. It aims to use the power of the photographic medium to communicate crucial sustainability messages to a global audience. The series of photographs entered by Benoit Aquin was on desertification in China and entitled The Chinese Dust Bowl.

Making the formal presentation at an awards dinner in the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, Kofi Annan said: “Today, nearly 1.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water and 2.5 billion are without basic sanitation. And it is through water, as the images in this collection illustrate, that we are seeing early and devastating manifestations of one of the greatest threats our world faces – climate change.

“It is my hope that the Prix Pictet, the world’s first prize dedicated to photography and sustainability, will help to deepen understanding of the changes taking place in our world and raise public awareness about the urgency of taking preventative action. Each artist has addressed the environmental and social challenges we face in their own personal way. The result is a series of powerful images which seeks to confront us with the scale of the threat we face and to inspire governments, businesses, – and all of us as individuals – to step up to the challenge and support change for a sustainable world.”

Accepting his prize, Benoit Aquin said: “I am delighted to win the Prix Pictet. It is a real honour especially when judged against such a prestigious shortlist. The Prix Pictet validates environmental photography as a subject both from a photo-journalism and an artistic point of view, bringing these different disciplines together in one competition to explore globally significant environmental issues. It is hugely welcome.

“My series The Chinese Dust Bowl shows just what happens when we miss manage the environment. These issues should not just be seen in the context of one country, they are global issues. They effect us all. And as a global population, we must solve them.”

To download the official press release, click here.

Congratulations to Benoit, who’s work was written about in an older post you can access here. I look forward to seeing what socially and environmentally aware work he comes up with next.


Prix Pictet Shortlist: Photographic Award in Sustainability

July 31, 2008

The Prix Pictet is a major new global prize in photography that focuses on perhaps the greatest single issue of the twenty-first century: sustainability. Over 40 nominators consisting of well known and esteemed gallerists, curators, directors, and editors nominated well over 200 photographers spanning 43 countries for this award, which is generally seen as the highest there is in terms of photography and the environment. 18 photographers were shortlisted by a group of highly regarded judges, including the work of Mary Mattingly, a former class mate of mine from Parsons School of Design. The photographers chosen have produced work of great significance and importance, focusing on urgent environmental issues. The prize awarded will be $100,000 for the winning photographer, as well as shortlisted artist offered a commission worth $40,000 to produce a water related project. To download the official press release please click here.

Shortlisted artists are:

Benoit Aquin
Edward Burtynsky
Jesus Abad Colorado
Thomas Joshua Cooper
Sebastian Copeland
Christian Cravo
Lynn Davis
Reza Deghati
Susan Derges
Malcolm Hutcheson
Chris Jordan
Carl De Keyzer
David Maisel
Mary Mattingly
Robert Polidori
Roman Signer
Jules Spinatsch
Munem Wasif

Each of these shortlisted photographers will be invited to show their work at the Palais de Tokyo in October and run through November, after which the show will be begin a world tour. Take a look at some of the images of each artist. They are powerful, devastating, beautiful, and extraordinary, all at the same time. I highly recommend reading the press release to find out more about each individual artist and their background, as well as the prize and how it’s come about. For me, to see a group of photographs whom I literally think of as the best in the world, competing for a prize that can have no better aim than sustainability in our world and communication into the devastating affects of climate change, I say, it’s about time.


Chris Jordan: Remains of a business, St. Bernard Parish
Series: In Katrina’s Wake: Portraits of Loss from an Unnatural Disaster

To visit the Prix Pictet site please visit

Benoit Aquin

July 10, 2008

“Always with an eye on humanitarian and ecological issues, Montreal based photographer Benoit Aquin is renowned for his photographic essays on such important subjects as the devastating effect of the Nemagon pesticide on banana-crop workers in Central America, the rapidly melting ice floes of the Canadian Great North, and the drastic desertification of China. Fueled by curiosity, lucidity, and a desire to involve himself directly with the world’s greatest political and moral quandaries, Benoit uses photography as his tool for social intervention. His new photojournalistic projects — including Lands Under Pressure, an examination of large-scale environmental testing grounds and their impact on humanity — demonstrate the depth of his artistic and humanistic commitment.” Patrick Alleyn

China’s Dust Bowl

“Deserts now cover 18% of China, and a quarter of them were caused by ecologically damaging human activities. Overexploitation of arable land, overgrazing, and increasingly deep drilling for water are at the root of what has become the Chinese dust bowl, a phenomenon the likeness of which hasn’t been seen since the 1930s, when the American Midwest and Canadian Prairies suffered from a devastating drought. China’s situation is quickly becoming the world’s most massive and rapid conversion or arable land into barren sand dunes. The resulting dust is picked up by the wind and transported, in the form of giant sandstorms, all over China and into Japan, Korea — even all the way to North America. In an effort to reverse the situation, the Chinese government has initiated the largest environmental restoration initiative the world has ever seen, and has begun a mass exodus of “environmental refugees,” displaced by the advancing sand.”

The images themselves are strikingly beautiful. The sand casts an erie and yet poetic sepia-like cast over what normally is a landscape full of color. Now, the only color visible is that of the sand. The images appear soft and painterly, as the sand casts a surreal fog over the scenery. This isn’t the first time I come to the realization that decay, and often times destruction, is beautiful. My boyfriend has jokingly said to me that I’m drawn to “disaster porn”, as he likes to call it. But he realizes that for me, it’s a catalyst for change, and a motivator to act.

Pesticide Nemagon: Deadly Mist

“In the 1970s and ’80s, American multinationals Dole and Del Monte used the carcinogenic pesticide Nemagon (or Fumazone) to fumigate their banana crops in Central America. They maintained its use despite the poison’s ban on American soil. Today, the men and women who worked on those plantations suffer from incurable illnesses, cancer, sterility. The children they do manage to conceive are born deformed. The companies feign innocence, and the court cases that were brought against them are on the eternal backburner. These are some of the images of the victims in Nicaragua.”

These images are sad, but humble at the same time. They present the truth of cause and effect, action and reaction, originator and consequence. The last two images are sequenced as such by Benoit, and exemplify the cause and effect relationship in a frightening literal way.

To see more images from these two bodies of work, as well as several other humanitarian and environmental projects, please visit Benoit’s website.