Water Commission

Munem Wasif, from series Salt Water Tears: Lives Left Behind in Satkhira. Golpata collectors settle after work in the middle of the river near Sunderban. Increased salinity from shrimp cultivation has forced traditional fishermen to abandon their families and seek a long term livelihood in Sunderban. Sunderban, Satkhira, 2009.

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.

Munem Wasif, from series Salt Water Tears: Lives Left Behind in Satkhira. Durgabadda Mondol (50) is the sole earner of the family. He and his family have been suffering from numerous diseases during the past few months. His daughter-in-law, unwell, sits outside in the sun. Chuna, Satkhira, 2008.

Munem Wasif, A quest for water. From series Salt Water Tears: Lives Left Behind in Satkhira. Bolabaria, Satkhira, 2008.

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.
Leo Johnson, sustainability adviser for the Prix Pictet

Munem Wasif, A mother rests with her daughter. From series Salt Water Tears: Lives Left Behind in Satkhira. Vamia, Satkhira, 2008.

Munem Wasif, Shrimp are for sale in a local market. From series Salt Water Tears: Lives Left Behind in Satkhira. Shamnogor, Satkhira, 2009.

Munem Wasif, A father, son, and uncle cast their net to catch fish at dawn. From series Salt Water Tears: Lives Left Behind in Satkhira. Sunderban, Satkhira, 2008.

Salt Water Tears: Lives Left Behind in Satkhira, Bangladesh

Sharoshoti Munda and Rubala Munda are waiting for their pitchers to be filled with water from the only filters in the area. They had to stand in a queue for hours like hundreds of others. Patrakhola, Satkhira, 2008.

The catalogue Salt Water Tears: Lives Left Behind in Satkhira, Bangladesh was produced to accompany the Prix Pictet Water Commission. The project resulted in Munem Wasif’s powerful series of photographs, which were first shown in London in March 2009 and have subsequently been exhibited in Dresden and Geneva. The publication contains the commission photographs and essays by Francis Hodgson, Jury member and Photography Critic, Financial Times and the former Head of Photographs at Sotheby’s, Leo Johnson, Sustainability Consultant, and Pavel Partha.

Each year Pictet & Cie will support a sustainability project related to the theme of the award. In 2008 Pictet & Cie supported the UK charity WaterAid. Building on Pictet & Cie’s support for WaterAid, shortlisted artist Munem Wasif was commissioned to visit the Satkhira region of south-west Bangladesh where WaterAid will shortly introduce water and sanitation facilities to the area of Shyamnagar Upazilla.

To order a copy of the catalogue please contact Candlestar.

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