One of my favourite photo blogs is PHOTO.fr, who a few weeks ago mentioned the Growth exhibition currently on display at Passage de Retz in Paris. I went there today and found it refreshingly good.
The first thing intriguing my attention was the photos online. Not really looking into the concept I simply liked the photos for their content and style.
My attention was further raised entering the exhibition and reading about the exhibition and the project. Mixed from the project’s website:
The Prix Pictet has a unique mandate — to use the power of photography to communicate vital messages to a global audience. The goal is to uncover art of the highest order, applied to confront the pressing social and environmental challenges of the new millennium.
The theme for the third cycle of the Prix Pictet is 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. From the dizzying expansion of our cities with their ever increasing dependency on scarce natural resources to the relentless growth of populations and the need to feed ourselves.
Here’s a great purpose for taking photos, a clear illustration of letting an idea drive and decide what photos to take and how! In trying to find my photographic identity I’ve run into the typical problem of working within a frame too broad. As I’m starting to experience, your creativity suffers from this and what you produce is too scattered to reach the depth required to make it interesting. I’m not sure Growth is the right frame for me but it does provide an example from which to draw some enlightenment and inspiration.
My attention was cemented upon seeing the prints. The first we saw were huge prints of three photos from Michael Wolf’s Architecture of Density, each filling up 3×4 meter on the walls. From the leaflet:
Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated metropolitan areas with an overall density of nearly 6,700 people per square kilometre. The majority of Hong Kong’s citizens live in flats in high-rise buildings whose units can house as many as 10,000 people. [..] Bits of laundry and hanging plants pepper the tiny rectangles of windows – the only irregularities in this orderly design. The images [..] give us an inkling of what our cities could look like if growth continues unchecked.
In this size the photos were really powerful.
The photos from Chris Jordan’s Midway: Message from the Gyre left an equally big impression. From his website:
On Midway Atoll, a remote cluster of islands more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent, the detritus of our mass consumption surfaces in an astonishing place: inside the stomachs of thousands of dead baby albatrosses. The nesting chicks are fed lethal quantities of plastic by their parents, who mistake the floating trash for food as they forage over the vast polluted Pacific Ocean.
Along with the photos, each artist also provided insight into his or her interpretation of the theme by a small accompanying text. I was particular fond of Chris Jordan’s text:
For me, kneeling over their carcasses is like looking into a macabre mirror. These birds reflect back an appallingly emblematic result of the collective trance of our consumerism and runaway industrial growth. Like the albatross, we first-world humans find ourselves lacking the ability to discern anymore what is nourishing from what is toxic to our lives and our spirits. Choked to death on our waste, the mythical albatross calls upon us to recognize that our greatest challenge lies not out there, but in here.
It’s stories of that calibre I want to have behind my photos! :)
Last but not least, winner Mitch Epstein had two great photos in the form of large prints from his American Power series, illustrating the power industry’s intrusion on American towns and landscape. Really good as well.