The Hasselblad Foundation has just awarded its biggest prize ever to Indian photographer Dayanita Singh. Regarded as one of the world's top photography honors, the Hasselblad Prize recognizes the major achievements of a single photographer who has made pioneering achievements in photography, who inspires a younger generation and has worked on internationally significant projects.
Dayanita Singh never wanted to be a photographer. Her passion was in typography and her dream was to invent a new type. While studying at the National Institute of Design in New Delhi, India, Singh quite literally fell into her career following an embarrassing misstep at a Zakir Hussain concert that changed her life.
As a woman living in the Eighties in India, her path was almost defined for her: get married, have kids and take up hobbies. Photography gave her freedom; a way out of the social obligations of a woman and enabled her to live and work wherever she wanted. It didn’t take her long to fall in love with photography.
But taking standalone pictures wasn't enough, Singh wanted a way to display the photos where she could control the narrative. "I strongly believe that photographs are raw material and you have to build something with them," she told the Hasselblad Foundation (opens in new tab). "It's a little bit like being a chef, you can't buy the best vegetable and serve them to people as their dinner… to my mind you have to build a whole cuisine out of that".
To date, Singh has published 14 books on topics covering everything from family life in India, to the relationship between photography, memory and writing, and how the transformation from day to night can make certain things seem more mysterious.
Dayanita Singh is the first woman of Indian descent to be awarded the prestigious Hasselblad Prize, which has been awarded annually since 1980. Previous winners include photographic legends, Cindy Sherman, Lee Friedlander, Josef Koudelka and Ansel Adams.
When interviewed prior to receiving the awards, Singh said, "If I were to get the Hasselblad Award, what I would really like to do is set up a system where I can encourage critical writing in photography every year, and in a way, payback what Robert Frank did for me."
Singh is an inspiring photographer, drawn to both pictures and words and understands the importance of photobooks for both the author and reader. No doubt she will use her prize money to motivate other photographers to use more writing in their work and print more books. To keep up to date with her latest releases or to find out more about Dayanita Singh, head to her website (opens in new tab).