In 2008, the Prix HSBC was awarded to two French artists: Aurore Valade and Guillaume Lemarchal. The artistic advisor was Chantal Grandé, the owner and director of the Galerie Forvm in Tarragona, Spain. Once again, we’ll be talking to the winners about the experience and its impact on their careers. Today it’s Guillaume Lemarchal’s turn.
L’Œil 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 ?
Guillaume Lemarchal: It was a wonderful time. The traveling exhibition allowed me to put together a sizable set of photographs that I probably never would have been able do without the help of the foundation. Having to rethink how they would be displayed in every different exhibition space allowed me to revisit the work differently for each show, which was very enriching. As for the publication of the book, that was a really good “school” to attend. I knew nothing about the world of publishing back then. It helped me better understand the issues. Books are a great way to share one’s work, and I really made use of it.
LODLP : Can you tell us about your winning project? Has the prize had an influence on your subsequent work ?
GL: The winning project was a series of photographs shot in Eastern Europe, mainly in Estonia. These images, bathed winter light, explored the identity of the photographed sites, their functions, the populations who have lived there and who live there still. These empty landscapes express a vision of tension between men and the exercise of certain political and economic powers. These photographs are not documentary. Through their subjectivity and aesthetic, they are undoubtedly works of visual art. Since I was awarded the prize, I have continued to work with landscapes, always on the lookout for mysteries and revelations. My work develops as I travel, targeting specific sites chosen according to their histories.
LODLP : Apart from the monograph, what impact did the prize have on your career? And what is your relationship like with HSBC today ?
GL: In addition to the publication of my book and the exhibition, the prize gives you a lot of visibility in the press, which was one of the best parts of the experience. It helped me meet people with whom I’ve kept in touch. As for my relationship with HSBC, I’ve stayed friendly with Christine Raoult and Chantal Nedjib, who have always been there to provide support.
“Balance and Peace could be the sentiments evoked when discussing landscape. Nothing is truer in Lemarchal’s work, for which he has travelled the Atlantic Coast, North Germany and Estonia in search of their history and their scars. His work is based upon both individual and collective memories, of areas marked by occupation, destruction and abandon. His distant and silent photographs, of total grandeur, speak of markings which visualise time, that is to say the form that time bestows from the ruins created by man, in an attempt to unearth the heart of the places. The solidarity of the photographer alongside the natural environment materialises as an opportunity for reflection upon human intervention and its industrial activities which irreparably harm nature. This photographic work, destined to make the community aware of the deterioration of their environment, opportunely explores the question of our presence in the world. “For me, all these places are becoming vast battle fields, where the past, the present and the imaginary develop in the mirror of humanity.”
Chantal Grandé, Artistic Advisor 2008
Paysages de l’après
Photographs by Guillaume Lemarchal
22,5 x 28,5 cm
Coedited by HSBC