The Prix Pictet is the world's first prize dedicated to photography and sustainability. The highly esteemed entrants must be nominated. And with nearly 70 nominees from five continents, the final image collection has a liberal scope reflecting the contest's pressing mission. This year's contest, themed "Earth," is currently under way. Last year's winning images and notable nominees have been published by teNeues in a book called water.
Roman Signer is a Swiss photographer whose art also spans sculpture and video, covering nearly 30 years. "For Water Boots, he says, "I filled two black boots with water and put a small amount of explosive in them." Wasserstiefel (Water Boots), 1986, Weissbad, Appenzell, Switzerland
Bangladeshi photographer Munem Wasif has a series called "A Tale of Paradise Lost--Climate Refugee in Bangladesh." "Every year," he says, "rivers are becoming more violent while people living beside them are becoming more vulnerable." The people have adapted to this aspect of climate and continue to exist in waist-deep floodwaters, sometimes even inside their homes, 2007, Chilmari, Bangladesh
Photographer Gideon Mendel captured Margaret Clegg in her living room after a devastating flash flood in northern England. Flooded Living Room, 2007, Toll Bar Village, near Doncaster, UK
American Chris Jordan was a corporate lawyer, but now he's an award-winning photographer. His series "In Katrina's Wake: Portraits of Loss from an Unnatural Disaster" presents the hurricane-related costs on a more personal level. Refrigerator on Franklin Avenue, 2005 New Orleans, USA
Nick Cobbing is a British photojournalist, primarily interested in man's role in nature. In this image, melt rivers and pieces of ice make patterns that form the edges of a retreated glacier in Greenland. Merging Arctic Ravine, 2005, Western Greenland
Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky says, "Nature transformed through industry is the predominant theme in my work." Nickel Tailings #34 & #35 (Diptych, 1 of 2), Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
Burtynsky continues, "Our dependence on nature to provide materials for our consumption, and our concern for the health of our planet sets us into an uneasy contradiction." Nickel Tailings #34 & #35 (Diptych, 2 of 2), Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
British/French photographer and environmental activist Sebastian Copeland documents changes to the Antarctic shelf in his series "Antarctica: The Global Warming." Ice Floes, 2006 Melchior Islands, Antarctica
Canadian photojournalist Benoit Aquin, winner of the 2008 prize, focuses mainly on large-scale environmental issues. His series on the Chinese "Dust Bowl" is a study of the man-made deserts that make up 22 percent of China's desert land, caused largely by unsustainable farming practices. The series, the artist says, "is about scarce water resources, desertification and ecological refugees in China." Untitled, 2006 Wuwei Oasis, Gansu, China
Photographer Mary Mattingly has done some pretty neat experiments. In 2001 she began constructing "wearable homes" that contain water purification systems, sleeping room and flotation devices; and they can be worn on your back. She has traveled the world wearing these homes and has photographed her experiment. Mattingly is interested in life on the move. Nomadographies, 2007 Nevada, U.S.A.
Terry Evans is a photographer of stunningly simple aerials and landscapes, many of which examine human impact on the environment. Backyard Pools, Will County, Ill., U.S.A., 2003
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In last year's water-themed contest, Canadian photojournalist Benoit Aquin received the award for his startling series on Chinese desertification. It's the very lack of water that concerns him. From glacial melt to unsustainable irrigation to freakish flash floods, the 2008 collection reminds us of nature's merciless indifference — but also of its ultimate vulnerability to human behavior.
A booming population on a planet of limited resources poses many questions and concerns, the most pressing being, can we sustain it? Kofi Annan, the Prix Pictet's honorary president said, "It is my hope that the Prix Pictet will help to deepen understanding of the changes taking place in our world and raise public awareness about the urgency of taking preventative action. The images submitted for the Prix Pictet confront us with the scale of the threat we face and they act to inspire governments, businesses — and all of us as individuals — to step up to the challenge and support change for a sustainable world."
Have a look at some of last year's notable nominees. All images (c) courtesy of the Prix Pictet Ltd., via water, published by teNeues Publishing Group