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Photographer Dayanita Singh wins 2022 Hasselblad Award

Praised for her 'intuitive approach', she is the first photographer from South Asia to receive the prestigious award
Dayanita Singh's work is typically displayed in teak boxes
Dayanita Singh's work is typically displayed in teak boxes
Deutsche Welle

Deutsche Welle   |   Published 15.10.22, 12:54 PM

Named after Swedish camera developer and manufacturer Victor Hasselblad, the award recognizes photographers for "significant achievement." The 2022 prize was awarded to Indian photographic artist Dayanita Singh on October 14.  Awarded annually since 1982, the prestigious prize is endowed with 2 million Swedish kronor (about €182,000 or $177,000).

Singh has used a Hasselblad camera for decades. In fact, it has long since become a part of her body, the 61-year-old has said. For Singh, photography is a physical act, a dance with the camera.


Book objects and mobile museums

Singh uses mobile structures made of teak wood to present her photographs. The images are constantly rearranged and recombined in the exhibitions, allowing them to be experienced new ways in a given space. Her art always begins and ends with the physical experience.

"Exhibitions have to be alive, because that's how I experience my work," she said. The artist is also known for carefully designed "artists' books," which she describes as portable museums.

New Delhi to New York and back

Born in New Delhi in 1961, Singh studied in Ahmedabad in India and at the International Center of Photography in New York City. Her career began in the 1980s. As a young photographer, she accompanied legendary tabla musician Zakir Hussain on concert tours. They remained friends. "I can't let go of the people I've photographed," Singh once said.

She then began working as a photographer for the New York Times and The Times of London, among other publications. Many of her works center on her homeland, India, and portray the Indian middle and upper classes.

Images of life

"Through her extensive photographic oeuvre, Dayanita Singh has paved new ways to interact with photography. From a humanist approach to portraiture to a consistent interest in archive, her wide-spanning photography is innovatively presented in books and installations," the Hasselblad Foundation writes on its website. 

Joshua Chuang, Chair of the Hasselblad Award Jury 2022 mentioned Singh's "intuitive, multivalent approach to photography" as a way 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," Chuang added.

The Hasselblad Foundation Museum in Gothenburg will show an exhibition of works by the award winner from October 15, 2022 - January 22, 2023. In Germany, Villa Stuck in Munich presents the exhibition "Dancing with the Camera" from October 20, 2022 - March 19, 2023.

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