Socialist Worker

Prix Pictet at V&A - powerful and socially-engaged

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2554

Foliage encroaching on blinds

Foliage encroaching on blinds (Pic: Saskia Groneberg)

This small exhibition is rich in powerful, innovative examples of socially-engaged photography. This year’s theme is “space”, prompting several photographers to look at migration and borders.

The prize winner is Richard Mosse, with photos of refugee camps in Moria and Idomeni in Greece also featured in his Incoming installation at the Barbican centre.

Taken at long distance through a heat-sensitive military camera, they examine the hostile gaze of the border regime as much as the refugees themselves.

Sergey Ponomarev gets up much closer, with dynamic portraits of refugees leaning out of boats or clinging onto trains. They celebrate their agency while lamenting their plight.

Munem Wasif explores the no-man’s-land created by the border between India and Bangladesh.


Another highlight is Pavel Wolberg’s collection of protests and barricades from Palestine and Ukraine.

Several artists look at our relationship with the built environment. Benny Lam’s ceiling-eye photos of Hong Kong home interiors look at housing and poverty.

Michael Wolf’s portraits of Japanese commuters, Beate Guetschow’s bleak composite landscapes and Saskia Groneberg’s almost abstract close-ups of office plants emphasise our alienation from our surroundings.

Sohei Nishino’s diorama maps do the opposite, building a picture of a whole city from the point of view of someone walking around it.

But perhaps the most original work is Mandy Barker’s microscope polemic against pollution.

She uses plastic microbeads gathered from beaches to recreate the plankton they are poisoning.

Prix Pictet 2017, Porter Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum, London SW7 2RL. Free entry, until 28 May.

Some of the cast of Rent Strike!


Some of the cast of Rent Strike! (Pic: Fatima Uygun)

Rent Strike!

In 1915 the men of Britain were marching to their slaughter in Europe.

British industry was geared up for the war effort attracting tens of thousands of people into Glasgow. Private landlords exploited the situation and overcharged for slum housing.

The draconian Defence of the Realm Act made it illegal for workers to strike or threaten the war effort.

Rent Strike! is a musical set among the shipyards and tenements of Glasgow.

It tells the inspiring story of how working class women overcame sectarian divisions and organised themselves to fight back against the exploitative landlords and won historic housing reforms.

And not just for people in Glasgow but for the whole of Britain, boosting the formation of the Independent Labour Party and spawning the movement for social housing.

Directed by Fatima Uygun. Govanhill Baths, Glasgow, 16-20 May. Tickets available from

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