Agnès Sire is the director and exhibition curator of the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson. In 2011, she was named artistic advisor of the Prix HSBC pour la Photographie. The winner’s of this truly international edition were the British-Mexican artist Alinka Echeverria and Chinese photographer Zhang Xiao. For this weekly installment, we spoke with the two winners about their experience with the prize. An interview with Zhang Xiao.
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?
Xiao Zhang : In 2010 i saw an art news published on a Chinese photography web about Lucie and Simon who won the HSBC prize. So I search The Prix HSBC pour la Photographie on internet and found the submit page, and presented my own work. Two month later I received a phone call from Christine, She told me I should come to accept the award in Paris!
LODLP : Can you tell us about the project you submitted? What impact has the prize had on your artistic life?
X. Z. : The project which I submitted was Coastline, About 20 images. At that time I was just starting this project, And The Prix HSBC pour la Photographie gave me more confidence to complete it. Also The Prix HSBC pour la Photographie helped me have 4 exhibitions and a book in France, I think this was my first very important experience .
LODLP : How did HSBC support you during this adventure? And what is your relationship with them today?
X. Z. : The organizer of Prix HSBC pour la Photographie are very meticulous. They provided me with all the airfare and accommodations.It also included the book launch during the Rencontres d’Arles.I think HSBC made a great contribution to my photography. And today I think we are friend!
“China boasts 18,000 kilometres of coastline, between the estuary of the Beilun River in the South and the Yalu River in the North. These coastlines are the “Windows into China” for the outside world. It is also a place of rapid urbanisation, even more so than the rest of the country. Theses coastlines are the subject of dreams for many Chinese people who leave the countryside, arriving in large numbers, in the hope of finding work and an easier life. Xiao Zhang, Chinese photographer from Chengdu, trained in Architecture, opens up an astonishing perspective along the entire coast. He describes it as both “beautiful and distressing”. There one can see holidays, marriages, rubbish, loneliness; a private and contemporary China without any exotic comforts. This young Chinese artist, already noteworthy in China for his work for the Three Shadows Photography Award, has been fascinated by the sea since his childhood; there he searches “a home for his heart, spirit and soul” and he has managed to capture, in real time, extremely strong images of China at a crossroads between two worlds.”
Agnès Sire, Artistic Advisor 2011