The 2012 Prix Pictet has been won by the French photographer Luc Delahaye. This year's theme was "power" and Delahaye was praised by the chair of the judges, David King, for "the sheer artistic excellence, dramatic intensity and narrative power" of his images. He was presented with the £65,000 prize by Norman Foster at a ceremony this evening at the Saatchi Gallery. Delahaye triumphed over a shortlist of strong contenders including Robert Adams, Joel Sternfeld, Guy Tillim, Rena Effendi and Edmund Clark.
Back in early July when the shortlist was announced, I wrote that Delahaye's "blend of the epic and the conceptual, though tricky and sometimes criticised for its supposed aestheticism of suffering, may make him a frontrunner for the prize". I would have preferred to see it go to the veteran American photographer Robert Adams, but the judges have tended thus far to reward the epic – see former winners Nadiv Kander (2010) and Mitch Epstein (2011) – over the restrained and reflective.
Delahaye was nominated for various works from 2008 t0 2011 rather than, as with many of the other shortlisted artists, a single series. His large-scale photographs ranged from post-conflict landscapes such as A Mass Grave Near Snagovo, Bosnia to glimpses of corporate power like A Lunch at the Belvedere.
Delahaye is certainly a controversial winner of the Prix Pictet. Having paid his dues as a much garlanded photojournalist (he won the World Press Photo three times and the Robert Capa Gold Medal for reportage twice) he now considers himself an art photographer. Since parting company with the Magnum agency in 2004, his images have been characterised by their scale, detail and detachment. The prices have risen accordingly. His work wilfully blurs the line between reportage and art, with all the underlying contradictions that suggests. It does seem odd that he's been lauded with a prize whose underlying theme is sustainability.