The Hasselblad Award and its 5 Most Recent Winners


The world of photography is filled with many awards. The variety is intense – from prizes driven by entities that have a lot of faith in the medium, to exaggerated cases where prizes are driven by companies utterly foreign to photography. Much has been said about photography contests thanks to companies outside the industry that often create prizes to hoard a vast archive of images they can use in their future advertising and marketing (by stipulating in the contest rules that the image submissions become part of the company's assets). Not all prizes launched by corporations – whether or not they are directly linked to photography – include such practices, but it's important that you always carefully read the terms in which these contests operate when deciding whether or not to participate.

Inside the award world, we have contests that are extremely prestigious and which many passionate and dedicated photographers dream of being able to even participate in. The Hasselblad Photography Award is one of them.

The prize has a strong link with photography, as it is driven by a company committed to the photographic discipline. This award honors the work of a single artist each year by recognizing their most significant contributions to the world of photography, especially in the field of contemporary art. The award includes a cash reward of SEK 1,000,000.00 (equivalent to $120,000 on average), a gold medal, a diploma and an exhibit at the Göteborg Museum of Art in Gothenburg, Sweden.

That said, this time I want to talk a bit about the five most recent winners of the prize.

Joan Fontcuberta (1955 – )

Image by Benjamin Balazs

This is not the first time I have mentioned Joan Fontcuberta here in Light Stalking, and although in this article I focused on people who have contributed to photography through their ideas and other efforts beyond the act of taking photographs, this time I would like to discuss the work of this renowned artist. On March 7, 2013, he won the prestigious Hasselblad Award.

Image by Gemma Planell

His work reflects a great concern towards diverse topics that range from contemporary art, to paleontology and geography. He began his photographic career as a professional wildlife photographer, and he gradually entered the field of contemporary art. His most recent ideas have contributed a lot to photography as such. He is very interested in creating ambiguity with his photography. He is passionate about challenging the nature of “truth” in photography, thanks to the human belief that photography is a type of evidence. Fontcuberta makes us think with his images. He challenges us to break with the prejudices and paradigms related to photography as a synonym for truth. He fills us with questions and doubts about the veracity of the photographic image, saying that: “Every photograph is a fiction that presents itself as true” and that “The good photographer is the one who lies with the truth.” You can see more of this teacher's pictures here.

Miyako Ishiuchi (1947 – )

She's a Japanese photographer who has been producing work and photographic collections since the final years of the ’70s. Her work has been characterized by being generous in terms of thick grain when printed. At the beginning of the ‘90s, she began to work around the details produced by the decay of the human body when it reaches certain ages, where the passage of time is most evident. Through her work we appreciate this human decay through the personification of everyday objects, to the obvious effects of time on the aging body. She received the Hasselblad Photography Award in 2014, and we can see some of her work here and here.

Wolfgang Tillmans (1968 – )

Image by Hpschaefer – This file has been extracted from another file: Tillmans-wolfgang-010313-2.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Wolfgang Tillmans is recognized in the world of art as the one who presents the world as a whole, without trying to make a division, separation or even fragmentation of the elements. His interest about transforming the world is high, but his biggest quality is that he has understood that in order to change the world, one must be involved with it. He involves with thorny issues such as politics, and issues that are becoming less taboo like sexuality in all its magnitude. His passion for photography has been observed since the 80s. In 2015 he was awarded the Hasselblad Photography Award. His work is amazing, and vast, with a high interest for imperfections and everything that results outside the requirements of the eyes of a world that demands high cosmetic standards. We can be seduced by his work here.

Personally I can say that this image is my favorite of him.

Stan Douglas (1960 – )

Video still of Win, Place or Show (1998) which explores the modernist idea of urban renewal, Fair use,

The Photography of Stan Douglas has been developing along with his film productions, and is recognized for re-examining in a very particular way certain locations linked to the past. His work has been done with both digital and analogue mediums alike. Stan Douglas makes use of the famous artistic tool of “appropriation”, and takes visual assets from Hollywood such as the Western or the Mystery genres. He also borrows elements inspired by the works of classical literature, which makes his work a peculiar Déjà vu feeling. Stan Douglas wins the Hasselblad Photography Award in 2016, and we can see a video where he talks about what he meant for his career and for him, this award.

Rineke Dijkstra (1959 – )

Rineke Dijkstra by Daphne Channa Horn – Wikiportret, CC BY 3.0,

She is the 2017 winner of the Hasselblad Prize, and her photography has a notorious flavor to what the masters of photography did in their images, and at the same time she does her work in a contemporary way and invites the reader to question some preconceived concepts. She is known for her simple, yet truly engaging portraits. She usually focuses on specific social communities with an emphasis on capturing the awkwardness and self-consciousness of adolescence. A little of her photograph can be seen in this compilation accompanying the news of 2017 after she had been awarded the prestigious prize. Ted Forbes made a video dedicated exclusively to deeply analyze one of her images.

About Author

Federico has a decade of experience in documentary photography, and is a University Professor in photography and research methodology. He's a scientist studying the social uses of photography in contemporary culture who writes about photography and develops documentary projects. Other activities Federico is involved in photography are curation, critique, education, mentoring, outreach and reviews. Get to know him better here.

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