Graciela Iturbide Nuestra Señora de Las Iguanas

Celebrating Female Photographers Who Have Won the Hasselblad Award

7 min read

This year, the Hasselblad Award announcement coincides with International Women’s Day. And the winner is a woman! From Graciela Iturbide to Rineke Dijkstra, several female photographers have received the Hasselblad Foundation International Award, which is the foremost international photography prize for those who have made major achievements in the discipline. This year, we added Ingrid Pollard to the list as another photographer recognized for her excellence. These women have been lauded for their unique contributions to the field of photography, spanning various subjects and techniques. Whether they excel in street photography or fine art photography, the work of these incredible women has significantly impacted how we see the world and understand the medium of photography. Let’s explore their contributions and each woman’s unique perspective.

What is the Hasselblad Award?

Photographic portrait of nature photographer Ansel Adams — which first appeared in the 1950 Yosemite Field School yearbook and other photography studies texts. Ansel Adams was an early winner of the Hasselblad Award because of his artistic practice and contributions to photography.

The Hasselblad Award is an international photography prize considered one of the most prestigious in the field. Established by the Hasselblad Foundation, the award aims to recognize and honor significant achievements in photography. The award is granted to photographers who have made pioneering contributions to the art of photography, had a decisive impact on younger generations, undertaken internationally significant projects, and continued to develop artistically.

Each international photographer who wins the Hasselblad Award receives a sum of SEK 2,000,000, a gold medal, and a diploma. The award ceremony typically includes an exhibition of the awardee’s work at the Hasselblad Center, located within the Gothenburg Museum of Art in Sweden, and a symposium featuring the winner.

The award is announced annually around March 8, coinciding with the birthday of Victor Hasselblad, the founder of the Hasselblad camera brand, and the individual after whom the foundation and the award are named. This year, the award announcement of this international photography competition coincides with International Women’s Day, which is extra fitting given that the recipient is Ingrid Pollard.

The selection process for the Hasselblad Award involves an award committee composed of internationally renowned experts and scholars in photography. This committee nominates several candidates, from which the Hasselblad Foundation’s board of directors selects the final winner​​.

Other International Photography Awards

Some other prestigious international photography awards, alongside the Hasselblad, include the World Press Photo of the Year, Prix Pictet, Sony World Photography Awards, and the W. Eugene Smith Grant. Each of these awards focuses on different aspects of photography, such as photojournalism, environmental and social issues, and documentary photography, showcasing the diverse fields within the photography world​​. Category winners are celebrated worldwide for their contributions to visual art and journalism.

Female Photographers Who Won Hasselblad Awards

Cindy Sherman (1999)

Cindy Sherman is celebrated for her conceptual self-portraits that challenge stereotypes and cultural norms. Since the late 1970s, Sherman has been transforming herself into myriad characters and personas, questioning the construction of identity, the role of women in society, and the nature of the representation of the self in media. Her work, particularly the “Untitled Film Stills” series, blurs the line between reality and fiction, offering a critique of the portrayal of women in cinema, advertising, and fashion.

Sherman’s photography extends beyond self-portraiture to explore historical portraiture, fairy tales, and societal roles, employing costumes, makeup, and settings to create elaborate scenes. Despite her diverse range of subjects, Sherman’s work is unified by its continuous examination of how images shape our perceptions of identity and femininity. Her ability to embody and dismantle various archetypes has solidified her position as a pivotal figure in contemporary art, influencing generations of photographers and artists exploring identity and representation.

Nan Goldin (2007)

Nan Goldin is renowned for her deeply personal and candid photography that captures intimate moments of her life and those around her. Her seminal work, “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency” (1985), is a slideshow of photographs that chronicle the complex relationships and vibrant yet tumultuous lives of her friends and herself, set against the backdrop of the post-punk era in New York City. Goldin’s raw, unfiltered style has significantly influenced contemporary photography, offering an unvarnished look into subcultures, love, and loss, while exploring themes of gender, sexuality, and identity.

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Nan Goldin has received numerous awards throughout her career, highlighting her impact and contributions to the field of photography. Notably, she was honored with the Edward MacDowell Medal in 2012, the Hasselblad Award in 2007, and was appointed to the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2006​​. These accolades recognize her pioneering work in documenting the LGBT subcultures, moments of intimacy, and her activism related to the opioid crisis.

Graciela Iturbide (2008)

Graciela Iturbide, a Mexican photographer, has been celebrated for her powerful and evocative images that explore the complex cultural landscape of Mexico. The photographer’s piece “Nuestra Señora de Las Iguanas” is our featured image for this article. It is shareable under Fair Use. Her work delves into themes of ritual, identity, and the role of women in Mexican society, often focusing on Indigenous cultures.

She captures themes of indigenous and urban life with a profound sensitivity. Iturbide’s work extends beyond Mexico, documenting diverse cultures worldwide. Her approach blends documentary and fine art, creating images that transcend mere observation to evoke deeper understandings of her subjects.

In addition to winning the prestigious Hasselblad Award in 2008, Iturbide has received numerous accolades, including the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund Grant in 1987 for her humanistic photography, showcasing her commitment to portraying the depth and diversity of human experience.

Sophie Calle (2010)

Sophie Calle is a French artist known for her investigative and participatory approach to art, blending photography, text, and performance. Her work often explores themes of surveillance, identity, and intimacy, inviting both herself and her audience into personal or semi-fictional narratives. Calle’s projects, like “Suite Vénitienne” and “Take Care of Yourself,” combine conceptual art with storytelling, showcasing her unique ability to turn life itself into art. Her work has been exhibited internationally and has earned her a reputation as a pioneering figure in contemporary art.

Calle has received numerous accolades for her innovative approach, including the Hasselblad Award in 2010. The award committee recognized her contribution to the field of photography and her unique method of storytelling that intertwines the personal and the fictional​.

Rineke Dijkstra (2017)

Rineke Dijkstra is a Dutch photographer renowned for her striking portraiture that often focuses on the theme of identity. Her work captures subjects in moments of transition or vulnerability, such as adolescents, new mothers, and maturing individuals. Dijkstra’s method involves using a straightforward, almost clinical approach that reveals deep emotional states and subtle nuances of personality.

She was awarded the prestigious Hasselblad Award in 2017, acknowledging her significant contributions to contemporary photography and her unique ability to capture the human condition with sensitivity and insight. She was also the 2020 recipient of the Johannes Vermeer Award.

Miyako Ishiuchi (2014)

Miyako Ishiuchi is a Japanese photographer known for her poignant works that explore themes of memory, loss, and time. Her photography often delves into personal and historical narratives, including the aftermath of Hiroshima and intimate studies of her mother’s belongings. Ishiuchi’s style is characterized by a tactile quality that invites viewers to connect with the subjects on an emotional level. She received the prestigious Hasselblad Award in 2014, recognizing her significant contributions to the field of photography and her ability to convey powerful stories through her images.

Dayanita Singh (2022)

Dayanita Singh is an acclaimed Indian photographer known for her narrative-based photographic series, often exploring themes of memory, identity, and the passage of time. Her work transcends traditional photography boundaries, pushing into the realm of book-making and creating mobile museums to challenge and expand the way photographs are consumed.

Singh has received numerous awards throughout her career, including the prestigious Prince Claus Award in 2008, recognizing her critical engagement with society through photography. Her innovative approach to the photographic medium and storytelling has significantly contributed to contemporary art and photography.

Carrie Mae Weems (2023)

Carrie Mae Weems is a renowned American artist who utilizes photography and video to explore themes of race, gender, and class. Her work often examines African American culture, interrogating social and political issues that impact the African American community.

Weems’ art transcends simple visual narrative; it delves into complex historical and contemporary stories, making her a critical voice in both the art world and broader socio-political discussions. She has received numerous awards, including a MacArthur “Genius” grant in 2013, highlighting her significant contributions to art and activism.

Ingrid Pollard (2024)

Ingrid Pollard is a British photographer and artist, known for her pioneering work exploring race, identity, and landscape. Her work often interrogates the concept of belonging, particularly in the context of the British countryside, traditionally not seen as a space of Black presence.

Pollard uses a mix of mediums, including photography, film, and installations, to challenge stereotypes and question social and cultural norms. Her contributions to art and her exploration of these themes have been widely recognized and celebrated in the art world. She is the most recent winner of the Hasselblad Award.

Women Have Won the Last Three Hasselblad Awards!

“Broke, baby sick, and car trouble!” (1937), Dorothea Lange (who was not a Hasselblad Award winner but should be recognized)

On International Women’s Day, it’s a privilege to celebrate the remarkable women who have won the Hasselblad Award among other prestigious accolades. These artists, through their unique perspectives and unparalleled contributions, have reshaped the discipline of photography.

Their work transcends mere images, delving into profound narratives around identity, society, and humanity. Their achievements not only highlight their individual brilliance but also underscore the importance of diverse voices in enriching the tapestry of visual culture. Let’s honor their legacy and the paths they’ve paved for future generations today.