by Vatsala SethiSep 21, 2022
Photography is more than capturing and immortalising a moment in one's life. If you dig deeper there's an art to it which is improved through practice, dedication, perseverance and determination. To celebrate and recognise the immense amount of time that artists put into their work, the Hasselblad Foundation awards a prestigious international photography award, grants and stipends to promote photography and natural sciences. The 2022 Hasselblad award recipient is the Indian photographer Dayanita Singh who lives in New Delhi, India. She's the first laureate from South Asia to bag this award which has previously been awarded to photographers such as Nan Goldin, Graciela Iturbide, Walid Raad, Cindy Sherman, and Wolfgang Tillmans. Moreover, Singh is the first to receive the new prize sum of SEK 2,000,000.
Born in 1961, the digital photographer studied Visual Communication at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, graduating in 1986. Using photography as a medium to reflect and expand on the ways in which we relate to photographic images, her work has been shown in numerous international publications. Over the decades of her career, Singh has exhibited internationally in over 60 solo shows and more than a hundred select group exhibitions.
Paving new ways by interweaving the reality into images, Singh’s extensive photographic oeuvre is innovatively presented in books and installations. She makes images nurtured by a boundlessly curious intellect and has an influence on the younger generations of photographers, internationally but especially in India, which has been and still is far-reaching.
The photographer states, “I can hardly believe this is true, I feel honoured and humbled to receive this award from the Hasselblad Foundation. For years I had wanted to teach a class called Dancing with my Hasselblad. And now to have this award as well as be in the esteemed company of previous awardees is beyond my imagination. I accept this award on behalf of my book objects and mobile museums.”
For the Indian origin photographer, publishing became a significant part of her practice. Through the books, she experiments with alternate forms of producing and viewing photographs while blurring the boundaries between book, object and exhibition — the photobooks becoming a gallery for the photographs and the exhibitions serving as catalogues for the books. With works like Sent a Letter (2008) Singh explores ways to disseminate her work to a larger audience, and in 2007 she published Go Away Closer, with 31 black-and-white photographs and no text, a book she describes as a novel without words. In the year 2008, through a series of Blue Books, Singh published photographs made during her wanderings in industrial landscapes, and that was followed by the publication of the book Dream Villa (2010). She is the recipient of six international awards and has over 20 published books, notably with a consistent collaboration with the publisher Gerhard Steidl. During the spring of 2022 Singh will have a large retrospective exhibition at the Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin, Germany. Singh’s latest publication Let’s See with Steidl will be released in June 2022.
On the occasion, the Chair of the Hasselblad Award Jury 2022, Joshua Chuang states, “Through her intuitive, multivalent approach to photography, Dayanita Singh is able to both record and re-animate the ineffable character of the human experience. In an increasingly virtual age, her practice is rooted in worldly physicality. Whether seen in a book, print, or self-contained wooden structures, her pictures engage the past and the present in a manner that is as textured, immediate, and unpredictable as life itself.”
The Hasselblad Center is the Foundation’s exhibition space, situated in the Gothenburg Museum of Art that holds a digital photography collection focusing on Hasselblad Award Winners and Nordic photographers. Further stipends for photographic advancement are awarded each year and the Foundation itself is engaged in the field of academic and artistic research through the publication of books, symposiums and collaborations with Swedish and international universities.
Singh will receive the honour in an award ceremony scheduled to take place on October 14, 2022, in Gothenburg, Sweden. On the same day, the Hasselblad Center will open an exhibition consisting of the artist's signature works and release a publication about the artist, including a newly written essay by the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk.
(Text by Vatsala Sethi (Asst. Editorial Coordinator(Arts))