From its very beginnings, the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès has made photography a priority amongst the various artistic fields that it supports; the partnership begun in 2013 with the Henri Cartier-Bresson Award is a keystone of this commitment. The biennial HCB Award is awarded by the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, an institution created by the famous photographer and his wife, Martine Franck, who was herself a photographer. The grant that accompanies the prize allows its laureates to undertake ambitious projects that are subsequently showcased in solo exhibitions at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris and in dedicated publications. As part of the partnership between the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès and the Aperture Foundation, the 2013 and 2015 HCB Award laureates, Patrick Faigenbaum and Claude Iverné, also exhibited their work at the Aperture Gallery in New York.
Thanks to the HCB Award, which he was awarded in 2013, Patrick Faigenbaum (b. 1954, France) developed a project dedicated to an Indian artist, Shreyasi Chatterjee, photographing her in her family and professional environments. Over the course of six trips to India and a number of key encounters, the photographer progressively enlarged his project to encompass the wider community. His work offers a voyage through the metropolis of Kolkata that includes public figures alongside intimate rites and private scenes. In 2015, his solo exhibition “Kolkata/Calcutta” at the Fondation HCB featured thirty large-format works. It was accompanied by a book and later exhibited in a new format at the Aperture Gallery.
In 2015, photographer Claude Iverné (b. 1963, France) was awarded the Prix HCB for his project “Sudanese Photographs, Gazelle River”. Thanks to the Prize, he was able to carry out a major work around the birth of the Earth’s 193rd nation, South Sudan. Having previously depicted the north of Sudan in black and white, Iverné opted for colour to magnify the portraits, school uniforms, walls and everyday objects of the new country to the south. In 2017, this work was featured in the exhibition “Bilad es Sudan” at the Fondation HCB in Paris and at the Aperture Gallery in New York. In France and the United States, the photographer narrated his relationship with this complex region through over a hundred prints, documents and objects, from early images of the desert to more recent portraits of exiled Sudanese citizens in France.
In 2017, the HCB Award was awarded to Guy Tillim (b. 1962, South Africa) for his project “Museum of the Revolution”. For several years, Tillim has photographed the streets and the avenues of African cities, including Johannesburg, Maputo, Luanda, Harare, Libreville, Addis Ababa and Nairobi. Thanks to the prize, he was able to continue his travels in the streets of Dakar, Accra, Kampala and Lagos, documenting urban landscapes that were often laid out in grand style by the colonial power before being renamed and transformed after independence. In 2019, his works feature in a solo exhibition in the new Paris exhibition space of the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Mathieu Pernot (b. France, 1970), the 2019 laureate of the Prix HCB, offers an intimate narrative interwoven with the ongoing historical tragedies that have shaken the Middle East in recent years. By retracing the journey recorded in an album of photographs compiled by his grandfather on a 1926 voyage, Mathieu Pernot moves from Beirut to Mosul by way of Homs and Aleppo, making his way across a region which, millennia ago, was the cradle of human civilization.
Over the course of what he refers to as a “journey through the ruins of History”, Mathieu Pernot captures scenes of desolation a world away from the landscapes his grandfather immortalised, which retrospectively take on an air of innocent fragility. At the intersection of these multiple temporalities, the solo exhibition La ruine de sa demeure at the Fondation HCB brings together fifty prints by the photographer, along with his grandfather’s album, images from his family archives and others found in destroyed homes in Mosul.
In 2021, the Prix HCB was awarded to American photographer Carolyn Drake for her project Centaur (provisional title). This project builds upon her previous series, Knit Club, created in a small village in rural Mississippi amidst a community of women linked by manual and craft activities. Working in a documentary register, yet readily drawing upon fiction and fantasy, Carolyn Drake created a bewitching series of portraits of these women. With Centaur, she will return to this group, this time focusing on the two lone men who participate in it. As artists and craftsmen, this pair reject the masculine ideal thrust upon them by a certain conservative strain of American culture. This documentary-fiction will be presented to the public in an exhibition at the Fondation HCB in spring 2023.