The 36 year-old Irish artist Richard Mosse beat 11 other shortlisted photographers for the prize, worth 100,000 Swiss francs. Sponsored by the Pictet Group, a Swiss private bank, it was awarded by Prix Pictet's honorary president, Kofi Annan, a former secretary general of the UN. The photographs by all 12 contenders – including Sohei Nishino, Thomas Ruff, Michael Wolf and Pavel Wolberg – are on show at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

Based between New York and County Clare, Ireland, Mosse spent two years capturing the journeys of migrants into Europe from the Middle East and north Africa. By using the military thermal camera, originally designed to control borders, he aimed to disorientate viewers with the panoramic images.

Richard Mosse, Ventimiglia, 2016, from the series Heat Maps, 2016-17 © Richard Mosse, Prix Pictet 2017
“It's reminding people of this western perspective of fear and xenophobia by imaging the body, figure and face of the refugees in a very dehumanised way,” he explains. “The [migrants] were completely unselfconscious that they were being filmed. It's been a bit of rollercoaster spending a couple of years understanding their complicated series of journeys, dreams and aspirations.”

This marks the second time that Mosse has used military photographic equipment in his work. He won the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize in 2014 for 'The Enclave', shot on discontinued infrared military surveillance film, about the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Richard Mosse, Idomeni, 2016, from the series Heat Maps, 2016-17 © Richard Mosse, Prix Pictet 2017
Richard Mosse, Larissa, 2016, from the series Heat Maps, 2016-17 © Richard Mosse, Prix Pictet 2017
Richard Mosse, Moria, 2016, from the series Heat Maps, 2016-17 © Richard Mosse, Prix Pictet 2017
Richard Mosse, Moria in Snow, 2017, from the series Heat Maps, 2016-17 © Richard Mosse, Prix Pictet 2017
Richard Mosse, Skaramaghas, 2016, from the series Heat Maps, 2016-17 © Richard Mosse, Prix Pictet 2017