The Prix Pictet Commission is an invitation from the Partners of the Pictet Group to one of the nominated photographers to undertake a field trip to a region where the Bank are supporting a sustainability project run by a charity or other NGO.
For the first Prix Pictet the theme was Water, and the Pictet Group supported the UK charity WaterAid that manages projects in the developing world which help communities gain access to clean, safe water, and sanitation and hygiene education.
WaterAid is currently working on a number of projects in Bangladesh where over 65 million of the total population of 140 million have no access to basic sanitation.
Building on the Pictet Group’s support for WaterAid’s work in Bangladesh, shortlisted artist Munem Wasif was commissioned to visit the Satkhira region of south-west Bangladesh where there are severe water issues and where WaterAid is working to introduce water and sanitation facilities to the area of Shyamnagar Upazilla.
Every year thousands of people die of easily preventable water-related diseases, and as a result of climate change and unplanned shrimp farming the area experiences frequent natural disasters, erratic rainfall and a steady increase in the salinity of the water table.
Munem Wasif travelled many miles through Satkhira and deep into the forests of Sunderban. There he met the people, made their journeys and listened to their stories. The powerful images that Munem Wasif made for this commission were first shown at the exhibition Salt Water Tears: Lives Left Behind in Satkhira, Bangladesh at the Mall Galleries in London. Writing in the catalogue Leo Johnson, sustainability adviser for the Prix Pictet says;
“What he [Wasif] has offered us in this series is a gaze that is without apparent register, atonal on the topic of grief, neutral on the subject of child mortality. What he has offered, in other words, is not just his gaze. It is also a rendering, in its dispassion, of ours. And the cumulative force of the images is this, not just to evoke our response but to awaken us to a harder reality, the fact that we do not respond.”
A catalogue accompanies the series.