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Robert Zhao Renhui

1983, Singaporean, born in Singapore

Singaporean photographer Robert Zhao Renhui was born in 1983. Robert studied Photography in the United Kingdom at Camberwell College of Arts and the London College of Communication before returning to his home to found the international organization, the Institute of Critical Zoologists – aiming to “develop a critical approach to the zoological gaze, or how humans view animals”. His photographic work addresses environment, man’s relationship with nature, and related issues of morality and ethics – paying close attention to how our attitudes and opinions shape assumptions about the natural world.

His work was awarded the Deutsche Bank Award in Photography in 2011 by the University of the Arts London and figures in many public and private collections.Recent exhibitions of Robert’s work have been in the Centre for Contemporary Photography (Melbourne), Jimei X Arles Festival, Noorderlicht Photo Festival, Format Festival, PhotoIreland, Flash Forward Festival, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum (Japan), Seoul Arts Center (Korea), GoEun Museum of Photography (Korea) and Shanghart (Shanghai). Finally, Robert has undertaken numerous research residencies which have nourished his engaged perspective, notably at the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, the National Museum of Wales, the Earth Observatory of Singapore, the Arctic Circle Residency and the Kadist Art Foundation.

Project presentation

Title: Natural History

For Robert Zhao Renhui, nature conservation and appreciation is and always has been about fulfilling people’s need for nostalgic wildness, however contrived and fictitious it may be. He proposes to embark on a photographic project for the Prix Elysée, investigating and documenting the different ideas we have constructed of nature.

“Nature is no longer quite the same. Today, more tigers exist in captivity than in the wild. Conservationists have to work hard to keep invasive species from disturbing a ‘natural’ state. My project aims to highlight the way that nature is being ‘maintained’ and managed in today’s society. The project aims to grapple with the complex realities of nature by looking at various ecological projects in the world, with a focus on Asia. I believe nature is only able to exist within limits inscribed by humans. A drama is unfolding across the world where we are trying to preserve what we can and many have travelled far and wide to experience authentic encounters with nature.

While conservationists are fighting hard to eradicate cats from several remote islands, at the same time, tourism is boosting in other islands where cats roam in the hundreds on ‘cat islands’. Such is the irony of our relationship with nature.

In this project, I will try to document the different ideas we have constructed of nature.”

Solo Exhibitions

  • 2015 A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the World,Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
  • 2015 The Nature Collector,Shanghart, Shanghai
  • 2014 Flies Prefer Yellow,Kadist Art Foundation, San Francisco


Group Exhibitions

  • 2016 The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed, 20th Biennale of Sydney
  • 2016 Arena, Noorderlicht Photo Festival
  • 2015 Arles Discover Award Exhibition, nominated by Louise Clements
  • 2015 Biel-Bienne Festival of Photography, Switzerland
  • 2014 Ocean of possibilities,Noorderlicht Photo Festival, Amsterdam
  • 2014 Origins, Memories & Parodies,Daegu Photo Biennale, Korea
  • 2014 Truths, Facts, Fictions, Lies,PhotoIreland, Ireland
  • 2014 A time of dreams,Moscow International Biennale of Young Art, Russia
  • 2014 Landscape: the virtual, the actual, the possible? Times Museum, Guangdong, China
  • 2014 Grand Prix Fotofestiwal, Poland

Self Published Photography Books

  • 2016 Christmas Island, Naturally, Sydney Biennale
  • 2015 Mynahs
  • 2014 Singapore, Very Old Tree
  • 2013 A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the world, Singapore Biennale
  • 2013 Horses and Canaries Ffotogallery Residency Program, Wales, UK
  • 2012 The Great Pretenders
  • 2012 Some Kind of Expedition
  • 2011 Why Look at Birds,The Arts Gallery, London
  • 2011 The Land Archive, Institute of Contemporary Arts, Singapore
  • 2010 The Whiteness of a Whale, Fukuoka Art Museum Residency Program, Japan