Sally Mann wins Prix Pictet ‘Fire’: World’s top photography prize
Prize-winning series explores the devastating wildfires in the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia
Photographer Sally Mann has been announced the winner of the ninth cycle of the Prix Pictet, the global award in photography and sustainability, on the theme of ‘Fire’.
For her series Blackwater, Mann explored the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia, a dangerous terrain slithering with snakes, predators, insects and heavy foliage, that many escaped slaves travelled through towards freedom. Mann documented the vast fires and thick smoke that consumed the swamp during her visit and which seemed to epitomise the great fire of racial strife in America.
© Sally Mann, Blackwater series 2008-2012
The announcement was made at a ceremony at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London on Wednesday 15 December 2021, marking the opening of a major exhibition showcasing the twelve series of powerful photographs shortlisted for the prize. The shortlisted bodies of work all explore the topical theme of ‘Fire’, which has been the focus of this cycle of the award.
“In the twelve years since we launched the award, two of the greatest threats to life on the planet—excess resource depletion and damaging climate change—have only intensified.”
Renaud de Planta, Senior Managing Partner of the Pictet Group
The shortlisted photographers for Prix Pictet ‘Fire’ are:
- Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, live and work in France
- Rinko Kawauchi, lives and works in Japan
- Sally Mann, lives and works in the USA
- Christian Marclay, lives and works in the United Kingdom
- Fabrice Monteiro, lives and works in Senegal
- Lisa Oppenheim, lives and works in the USA
- Mak Remissa, lives and works in Cambodia
- Carla Rippey, lives and works in Mexico
- Mark Ruwedel, lives and works in the USA
- Brent Stirton, lives and works in the USA
- David Uzochukwu, lives and works in the USA and Belgium
- Daisuke Yokota, lives and works in Japan
Prix Pictet Podcast Season 3: Power
The announcement of ‘Fire’ also launched the release of the third series of the Prix Pictet podcast A Lens on Sustainability, which is released today, brings together global creators, thinkers and photographers to discuss photography and sustainability. Collaborators and guest speakers this season include Taryn Simon, Peter Frankopan, Brent Stirton, and Herminia Ibarra, among others.
The podcast is available via
Past exhibitions highlights
The nine cycles of the Prix Pictet have been shown in exhibitions in many major cities of the world.
The theme of the inaugural Prix Pictet was “Water”. It is, after all, through water that we are able to see the earliest and most devastating manifestations of climate change: threats to our food supply, to our health, to fragile ecosystems, to the ground on which we live and even to our peace and security.
“Water” exhibition has been toured in Paris, Thessaloniki, Dubai, London, Hong Kong, Eindhoven, Dresden, Bonn and Geneva.
Image caption: Water exhibition at The Rotunda, Exchange Square, Hong Kong. 12 – 19 Mar 2009
The theme of the second cycle of the Prix Pictet was “Earth”. Earth refers to the planet and the soil beneath our feet, to the marks that makes on the face of the land – either directly through the creation of mines, toxic waste, broken urban wastelands, vast refuse dumps and blasted desert landscapes; or indirectly, through the scars left by fire, flood or famine and the impact of natural disasters such as earthquakes, landslides and volcanoes or the migration of displaced people.
“Earth” exhibition was toured in Paris, Thessaloniki, Dubai, Dublin, Bonn, Moscow, Berlin, Milan, Madrid and New Delhi.
Image caption: Earth exhibition at Galerie Les Filles de Calvaire, Paris. 12 – 27 Nov 2010
The theme for the third cycle of the Prix Pictet was “Growth”. At once a blessing and a curse, Growth, in all its forms, presents one of the great conundrums facing humanity in the early decades of the twenty-first century. Growth improves living standards and health for untold millions around the world. From the dizzying expansion of our cities and their ever increasing dependency on scarce natural resources, to the relentless growth of populations and the need to feed ourselves, growth threatens environmental catastrophe.
“Growth” exhibition was toured in Paris, Thessaloniki, Milan, Zurich, Düsseldorf, Madrid, San Diego, Washington, Dublin, Beirut, Amsterdam and Hong Kong.
Image caption: Growth exhibition at Galleria Carla Sozzani, Milan. 9 June – 31 June 2011
The theme of the fourth cycle of the Prix Pictet was “Power”. As a theme Power is vast and paradoxical; it embraces hope and despair in equal measure. The works reveal the struggle for survival between humankind and nature, our despair in the face of the damage we have caused, social power conflicts, and the dichotomies of power in our world today with its invasions and revolts.
“Power” exhibition has been toured in London, Munich, Amsterdam, Paris, Budapest, Istanbul, Dublin, Tel Aviv, San Diego and Zurich.
Image caption: Power exhibition at Huis Marseille Museum, Netherlands. 23 Mar – 16 June 2013
The theme of the fifth cycle of the Prix Pictet is “Consumption”. Consumption lies at the heart of the Prix Pictet’s mission to bring global attention to what we believe is the greatest challenge facing humankind today: the issue of environmental sustainability.
It is a multi-faceted theme that is rich with creative potential. We are all consumers. We have invented new forms of building, industrial production, farming and energy; we have emptied the seas and ravaged the land in our relentless drive to satisfy our unquenchable desires. We have built vast empires based on luxury goods, creating demand for essentials that we didn’t know we needed. We have sustained this through the sometimes thoughtless exploitation of the world’s poorest people.
“Consumption” exhibition was toured in London, Barcelona, Thessaloniki, Turin, Zurich, Luxemburg, Munich, Mexico, Dubai, Brussels, Dublin, Beirut and Tokyo.
Image caption: Consumption exhibition at CAB Art Center in Brussels. 25 Feb – 21 Mar 2015
The theme of the sixth cycle of the Prix Pictet photography prize is “Disorder”. In his introduction to the book, Disorder, Kofi Annan writes, “The natural order of things is being overturned. Everywhere we find signs of the threat that humanity poses to the planet, the consequence of our addiction to carbon-based energy and our blind belief in limitless rises in production. Our attempts to impose order simply draws attention to the pervasive disorder. With each passing day our illusion of order is shattered.”
“Disorder” exhibition has toured in London, Rome, Brussels, Geneva, Zurich, Athens, Moscow, Tokyo, Dublin, Hamburg, San Diego and Barcelona.
Image caption: Disorder exhibition at CAB Art Center in Brussels. 26 Feb – 26 Mar 2016
The theme for the seventh cycle of the Prix Pictet is “Space”. It is a deliberately broad theme that could embrace subjects as diverse as overpopulation, territorial dispute, air pollution, cyber space, wind borne diseases, hurricanes, as well the fragility of the planet’s great wildernesses and our tendency to fill space – from the oceans to outer space – with junk and many things besides.
“Space” exhibition was toured globally, include London, Tokyo, Zurich, Moscow, Stuttgart, Mexico, Turin, Brussels, Lausanne, Istanbul, New York, Dublin.
Image caption: Space exhibition at Museum of Modern Art, Mexico City. 2 Mar – 22 Apr 2018
The theme for the eighth cycle of the Prix Pictet was “Hope”. Hope in the face of adversity. Recycling. Reforestation. Rewilding. Science – advances in medicine – and technological solutions for global environmental problems. Falling poverty levels. It is time to examine some of the positive actions on sustainability that are beginning to emerge by contrast with the alarming analysis that constantly assails us in the global media.
“Hope” exhibition was toured globally in London, Tokyo, Zurich, Moscow, Lausanne, Verona, Tel Aviv, Monte Carlo, Milan, Dublin, Shanghai and Beijing.
Image caption: Hope exhibition at Hillside Forum, Tokyo. 12 – 28 Dec 2019
The theme for the ninth cycle of the Prix Pictet was “Fire”. Fire has hardly been out of the news since the inferno that consumed Notre-Dame in Paris in early 2019. We have seen record rain forest blazes in the Amazon first, bush fires in Australia and conflagrations in California. Fire means survival, renewal and economic prosperity; it destroys as it renews. Yet our abuse of this most capricious of elements is the source of most of our environmental woes.
The “Fire” exhibition has been toured in Tokyo, Lonond and will continue to be shown in Zurich and Moscow, among other venues.
Image caption: Fire award ceremony, exhibition at the V&A Museum, London. 15 Dec 2021 - 9 Jan 2022