Last year’s Prix HSBC pour la Photographie was awarded to two women, Akiko Takizawa, a Japanese photographer based in London, and Delphine Burtin, from Switzerland. Simon Baker, a curator of photography and international art at London’s Tate Modern, served as the artistic advisor. We spoke with the two winners about their experience one year later. This is our final installment in this series before an upcoming interview with this year’s winners, Maia Flore and Guillaume Martial.
L’Oeil de la Photographie : The Prix HSBC pour la Photographie turns 20 this year. It is awarded annually to two photographers to help them complete a project that will be exhibited and published as a monograph, often the artist’s first. What was your experience with the prize?
Akiko Takizawa : For me, the Prix HSBC has been the highlight of my career to date. The whole experience, right from the start when the prize was presented, has been incredible. I feel that the fact that you are immediately thrown into several interviews at the prize giving ceremony is a very effective way of entering this process, as it makes you appreciate the honour of receiving this prize.
The best aspect of the Prix HSBC is that it is not just one event or cash prize but it is a process that meaningfully assists the development of the winner as an artist. Through the series of exhibitions and interviews, I discovered something new about myself each time. The pressure of keeping up with the touring exhibitions was immense. As soon as one exhibition opens ,you are already discussing the next, and in parallel, you are also working with Actes Sud on the monograph.
Reflecting back, I feel that every aspect of the process has been invaluable in providing a taste of what it means to be a full-time artist. In a way, I feel that the Prix HSBC is a programme that trains the winner to become a professional artist.
LODLP : Can you tell us about the project you submitted? What impact has the prize had on your artistic life?
AT : The photographs portray transient souls drifting and disappearing amidst the flickering light and darkness of a blizzard night, air heavy with the spring bloom. Through using Collotype printing, a technique that was originally invented in France 150 years ago, life and time glows in these carbon-black images. The submitted works were mostly selected from photographs I have taken in the last 10 years in Japan. These include images of my grandparents’ house which was about to be demolished, and people visiting a blind shaman in the hope of reconnecting with their lost loved ones. The theme questions our existence, where we are heading in these harsh modern times we inhabit. The title of the monograph, “Where We Belong”, sums up these themes.
The prize has had an enormous impact on my career in the most positive way. The morning after the prize-giving ceremony, I was contacted by a NY gallery owner and dealers. The prize has definitely increased my profile and this in turn has had a positive effect on the sales of my work. The publication of the monograph has also brought a much broader audience. I am very touched to constantly receive response to my work through emails.
Before, I felt like a jumbo jet stack on the runway, not knowing how to take off. However, this prize has given me the confidence to believe in myself – I can fly much higher than I ever imagined and anywhere I want!
LODLP : How did HSBC support you during this adventure? And what is your relationship like with them today?
AT : They supported me more than 100%. They were very communicative and approachable throughout the process and I was made to feel welcome and assured of their constant support. Despite my inability to speak French, the whole team always made sure to include me in their conversations. It was great to learn French culture through these interactions. My relationship with the team has grown stronger over the year and I feel sure that we will keep in touch as they always invite us to attend their forthcoming events. I now understand why so many of the previous winners came and supported Delphine Burtin’s and my exhibitions. The Prix HSBC team and juries always treat each of us with warmth and openness.
“This stunning series of photographs relates to the artist’s visit back to the home of her grandparents, and the death of her grandfather, in the remote north of Japan. But beyond this personal story, and the fact that many of the images are of her family and the house in which they lived, this work should be appreciated for its incredible visual sensibility. In the tradition of Issei Suda, Eikoh Hosoe and Daido Moriyama, Takizawa works with intense contrast, deep blacks and fleeting highlights in dramatic and emotional compositions. The works themselves in their original format, (rather than the copies submitted), are collotypes on traditional Japanese paper, an extremely rare and precious photographic process, produced in only one surviving workshop in Kyoto. Takizawa’s work is therefore exceptional in both its physical and aesthetic character, and carries forward the honorable tradition of Japanese innovation in black and white photography since the Second World War. This is an important and exciting artist working both with traditional processes and contemporary ideas.”
Simon Baker, Artistic Advisor 2014
Where we belong
Actes Sud Beaux Arts / Prix HSBC pour la photographie
22,0 x 28,0cm