Snapshots of a Fragile Planet – The Prix Pictet: Disorder Exhibition at the Museum of Photographic Arts

Rubi BaricuatroBalboa Park Cultural Partnership, Sustainability Program

The Museum of Photographic Art’s (MOPA) current exhibit, Prix Pictet: Disorder, highlights important social and environmental issues through the use of photography. Since 2008, the six cycles of the Prix Pictet have been shown in 63 exhibitions in 54 different cities including Tokyo, London, Hong Kong, New York, Rome, Moscow and Mexico. MOPA has had the privilege of hosting the current cycle and the previous two: Power and Consumption.

The Disorder Theme

Honorary President of the Prix Pictet and former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, offered the following description of the Disorder theme:

“Our times are defined by disorder. Our mastery over manifold aspects of life has deluded us into thinking that we have bent the planet to our will. Yet the fragility of that assumption is exposed with each new pandemic, earthquake, tsunami or drought. With each passing day our illusion of order is shattered.”

Each photographer in the exhibition has a unique way of capturing and presenting an important message that is translated through a visual narrative. Finalists in this sixth cycle touch on the effects of an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality, climate change, development, capitalism, the fragility and impermanence of beauty, consumerism, wastefulness, destruction, accidental awareness, illusion, civil unrest, and exploitation.

This cycle’s winner, Valérie Belin, described her still lifes:

“In terms of sustainability, these still lifes thus offer a jarring commentary on the effects of our obsession with cheap objects, for not only is their material, plastic, emblematic of the wasteful use of raw materials, but it also represents a grotesque kind of immortality because of its non-biodegradable nature – an immortality that, one could say, is slowly killing the planet.”

Karen Noble, Collections & Exhibitions Coordinator at MOPA, shared her perspective:

“[The exhibition] provides different viewpoints of some of the environmental and social and political issues that are impacting our world. I think that has repercussions locally and would hope that it would broaden people’s perspectives and give them cause to think about their own lives and impact.”

Karen added that she is “most drawn to Gideon Mendel’s work. He is photographing survivors of floods near or within what remains of their homes; it’s an experience that crosses cultures, economic status, etc.”

The Prix Pictet Prize

The Prix Pictet was founded in 2008 and has become the world’s leading award for photography and sustainability. The prize aims to harness the power of all genres of photography to draw global attention to issues of sustainability, especially those concerning the fragile state of our planet.

Photographers from around the world are entered into Prix Pictet through a nomination process, and there are no limits to the style or format of the photography. Styles and representation range from documentary to abstract. The current exhibition at MOPA represents the 12 finalists and winner of the sixth cycle.

Sustainability within MOPA

The Prix Pictet exhibition isn’t MOPA’s first experience with sustainability. Not only does the museum reside within a LEED Silver certified building, but it incorporates sustainability as an educative piece in exhibitions and in their operations. MOPA has held an annual Juried Youth Exhibition since 2006, and sustainability was the theme in the 2012 edition, called Photo|Synthesis, which was a local adaption of Prix Pictet ideas. MOPA also implemented sustainable best practices when remodeling their Joan and Irwin Jacobs Theater, winning them the 2014 Balboa Park Sustainability Award for use of recycled material and waste diversion.

The Prix Pictet: Disorder exhibition is a visually moving and reflective experience, and is accessible to everyone because of MOPA’s “pay what you wish” admission model. Be sure to check it out soon as it will end on May 23, 2017. Please visit the MOPA website for hours of operation and other information.