Joan Fontcuberta, the first Spaniard to win photography’s ‘Nobel’

The Barcelona artist receives the Hasselblad Award for 30 years of thought-provoking work

A self-portrait by Joan Fontcuberta, in the guise of the cosmonaut Ivan Istochnikov, for his series "Sputnik.'
A self-portrait by Joan Fontcuberta, in the guise of the cosmonaut Ivan Istochnikov, for his series "Sputnik.'

Already a recipient of the National Photography Prize in 1998 and the National Essay Award in 2011, the aggressive, ironic, playful, and original Barcelonan photographer Joan Fontcuberta now adds the Hasselblad International Photography Award to his collection of prizes. Fontcuberta is the first Spaniard to obtain this award, considered the Nobel Prize of the specialty, in its 33 years of existence.

During the presentation of the prize this morning in Barcelona, Bo Myhrman, director of the Hasselblad Foundation, awarded Fontcuberta the prize for his exceptional career and the originality of his work. Myhrman called the photographer one of the most inventive contemporary artists over more than 30 years of consistent quality work.

Within his collections highlighted by the foundation are his series on nature such as Herbarium (1984), Fauna (1987), and Sputnik (1997), all which look nothing like their given titles. No plants, nor animals nor any lost Russian astronaut forever lost in space appear in the photos within these collections. The gap between what the viewers perceive about a collection and its real content, in addition to questions about the roles of media and scientific investigation, are some of the common themes Fontcuberta explores. The thought-provoking nature of Fontcuberta’s work is something the foundation focused on when granting the Spanish photographer this prestigious award.

In October, an exhibition will open in the Hasselblad Center in the Museum of Art in Gothenburg, including some of the series and a case study on the works. The prize, endowed with 110,000 euros, is the result of an inheritance from the Swedish industrialist and photographer, Victor Hasselblad, inventor of the SLR of the same name that is used by astronauts, among others, on their trips to space.

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