Indian photographer Gauri Gill was announced as the winner of the tenth cycle of the Prix Pictet, the global award for photography and sustainability, receiving the prize of 100,000 Swiss Francs. Gill was selected from a shortlist of 12 photographers by an independent jury.
Gill’s work emphasises her belief in working with and through community, in what she calls ‘active listening’. For more than two decades, she has been closely engaged with marginalised communities in the desert of western Rajasthan, Northern India and for the last decade with Indigenous artists in Maharashtra.
Her winning series Notes from the Desert began in April 1999 when she set out to photograph village schools in Rajasthan. Having grown up mainly in cities, she soon realised that rural schools were a microcosm of a complex reality she knew nothing about. Visiting the same people and places over decades, she witnessed the whole spectrum of life: drought years and great monsoons; dust storms leading to fevers, and floods leading to the rebuilding of homes; epidemics; overwhelmed hospitals and understaffed schools; festivals, feuds, celebrations, and prayers.
About her series, the artist said:
“On my many visits to rural Rajasthan, I have witnessed a complex reality I knew nothing about as a city dweller. To live poor and landless in the desert amounts to an inescapable reliance on oneself, on each other, and on nature. These fragments of shared experience now inhabit a large photographic archive called Notes from the Desert, encompassing different narratives and varied forms of image making.”
Executive Director of Prix Pictet, Isabelle von Ribbentrop said:
“In a world facing unprecedented challenges, from social inequality to environmental crises, it was crucial to turn the lens towards humanity itself. The theme Human provides a platform to explore the complexities, vulnerabilities, and strengths of the human condition. It allows the artists to capture and communicate the stories, struggles and triumphs of individuals and communities around the globe. Through this theme, Prix Pictet aims to foster a deeper understanding of our shared humanity and inspire meaningful conversations about the issues that impact us all. Especially when thinking about the theme Human, I strongly believe that instead of the future of photography, we should think about photography of the future. The power of the image lies in its ability to foreground critical and urgent environmental issues in a visually impactful yet direct way.”
About Gauri Gill:
Born Chandigarh, India, 1970
Lives and works in New Delhi
Series: Notes from the Desert
Gill studied at Delhi College of Art, Parsons School of Design, New York, and Stanford University, California. Her work has been shown internationally, including at Whitechapel Gallery, London (2010), The Wiener Holocaust Library, London (2014), San Jose Museum of Art, California (2015) and the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in Kerala, India (2016). In 2017, Gill’s work was exhibited at Documenta 14, Athens and Kassel, the 7th Moscow Biennale, and Centre Pompidou, Paris. It has been shown at Museum Tinguely, Basel (2018), MoMA PS1, New York (2018), the 58th Venice Biennale (2019), Chobi Mela, Dhaka (2019), and BAMPFA, Berkeley, California (2020). Gill’s first major survey exhibition opened at Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt in 2022, moving to Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebak, Denmark in January 2023. She also exhibits at locations outside the art world, including public libraries, rural schools and non-profit institutions. Her work is held by institutions including The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Tate Modern, London, Smithsonian Institution, Washington and Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland. Her awards include the Grange Prize, awarded by the Art Gallery of Ontario (2011), and an India Today Art Award (2018). She has been a Creative Arts Fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center, Italy (2013), and was the inaugural Roberta Denning Visiting Artist at Stanford University (2022). Gill has recently published two books with Edition Patrick Frey about her collaborations with rural artists, Acts of Appearance (2022) and Fields of Sight (2023).