Sally Mann wins 9th Prix Pictet

Prize-winning series explores the devastating wildfires in the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia

Words by

Catherine Philippot, Relations Media

© Sally Mann, Gagosian, Prix Pictet | Blackwater 20 2008 – 2012 From the series Blackwater, 2008–12 Tintype Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian

American artist Sally Mann was announced at Wednesday 15 December 2021 as the winner of the 9th cycle of the Prix Pictet, the global award in photography and sustainability. The winner receives a cash prize of 100,000 Swiss Francs (£82,000, USD109,000).

© Sally Mann, Gagosian, Prix Pictet | Blackwater 12008 - 2012rom the series Blackwater, 2008–12, Tintype, Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian

The announcement, at a ceremony at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London, marks the opening of a major exhibition showcasing the 12 photographic series shortlisted for the prize. Each of the shortlisted bodies of work explores the topical theme of ‘Fire’, the focus of this cycle of the award.

Sally Mann (b. 1951) is known for her photographs of intimate and familiar subjects rendered both sublime and disquieting. Her works explore family, social realities and the passage of time, capturing tensions between nature, history, and memory.

© Sally Mann, Gagosian, Prix Pictet | Blackwater 30, 2008-2012. Tintype, Courtesy of the Artist and Gagosian

Mann’s winning series Blackwater (2008-2012) is a multifaceted exploration of the devastating wildfires that enveloped the Great Dismal Swamp in southeastern Virginia, where the first slave ships docked in America. In this work, Mann draws a parallel between the all-consuming wildfires she encountered therewith racial conflict in America, explaining “the fires in the Great Dismal Swamp seemed to epitomize the great fire of racial strife in America – the Civil War, emancipation, the Civil Rights Movement, in which my family was involved, the racial unrest of the late 1960s and most recently the summer of 2020. Something about the deeply flawed American character seems to embrace the apocalyptic as a solution.”

Born in Lexington, Virginia, Mann began studying photography in 1960. Her first solo museum exhibition was at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, in 1977. From the late1990s into the 2000s, Mann focused on the American South, taking photographs in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana for her series Deep South (2005), as well as Civil War battlefields for Last Measure (2000).A Thousand Crossings, Mann’s recent survey exhibition, explores the identity of the American South and Mann's relationship with her place of origin. It debuted at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in Mississippi and 2018 and travelled extensively. Mann is a Guggenheim fellow, a three-time recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and was named “America’s Best Photographer” by TIME magazine in2001.

In a statement issued today on behalf of the Prix Pictet Jury, Sir David King, Chairman of the Jury, said: “If ever there was a time for the Prix Pictet to take up the theme of Fire, that time is now. This past summer we were inundated with images of fire at its most frighteningly destructive... Of course, fire is a most capricious element, and its various faces were present in the group of shortlisted series. The jury considered an exceptional group of artists, each of whom demonstrated a highly distinctive approach to the theme, at times challenging our understanding of what photography can be. Sally Mann’s series in particular is a brilliant repurposing of the historic photographic process to tell a chilling contemporary story.

At the end of a rich debate, the jury was unanimous in their decision that she was a worthy winner of the9th Prix Pictet.”

The free exhibition at the V&A of the work of the shortlisted photographers, listed below, is on show until 9 January 2022.

Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige (Lebanon)
Rinko Kawauchi (Japan)
Sally Mann (USA)
Christian Marclay (USA/ Switzerland)
Fabrice Monteiro
Lisa Oppenheim (USA)
Mak Remissa (Cambodia)
Carla Rippey (Mexico)
Mark Ruwedel
Brent Stirton (South Africa)
David Uzochukwu (Austria/Nigeria)
Daisuke Yokota (Japan)

The Prix Pictet was founded by the Pictet Group in 2008. Today, the award is recognised as the world’s leading prize for photography. On an approximately 18-month cycle, each theme aims to promote discussion and debate on critical issues of sustainability. The prize of 100,000 Swiss Francs is awarded for a body of work that speaks most powerfully to the theme of the award.
Each cycle of the Prix Pictet tours globally, with exhibitions in over a dozen locations, bringing the work of the shortlisted photographers to a wide international audience. The Prix Pictet award is accompanied by a full-colour book published by teNeues, covering in detail the work of the shortlisted photographers, together with selected images from the wider group of nominees, and essays on the theme of the prize by leading thinkers and writers.
The eight previous Prix Pictet winners are Benoit Aquin (Water), Nadav Kander (Earth), Mitch Epstein(Growth), Luc Delahaye (Power), Michael Schmidt (Consumption), Valérie Belin (Disorder), Richard Mosse (Space) and Joana Choumali (Hope).

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