Benoit Aquin Wins Prix Pictet for ‘Chinese Dust Bowl’ Photos

We’re not going to lie to you: we were rooting for Swiss artist Roman Signer to win the Prix Pictet, the new Pictet & Cie-sponsored global photography competition that seeks to promote sustainability. Considering that the theme of the inaugural competition was water, we thought that Signer was a shoe-in for the prize, but the judges went for images notable for their lack of liquids and chose Benoit Aquin (pictured at right) to take home the CHF 100,000 (approximately $84,000) award. The Canadian photographer was honored for “The Chinese Dust Bowl,” his series of photos on desertification (not to be confused with dessertification) in China, where overfarming and increasingly deep drilling for water are turning arable soil into barren sand dunes. At a recent ceremony in Paris at the Palais de Tokyo, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan presented Aquin with his check and a trophy designed by London-based jeweller Vicky Ambery-Smith. An exhibition of work shortlisted for the prize—including images by Signer and eco-warrior Chris Jordan—is now on view in Dubai and then next month moves to Thessaloniki, Greece. Meanwhile, planning is already underway for next year’s prize. The theme for 2009? Earth. If history is any guide, those looking to score a nomination should start taking photos of other planets now.