The Norwegian photographer, whose work focuses on questions of identity and belonging, has been recognised for his photographic series Slash and Burn, a project based on the traditions of a minority living in the mysterious Forest of the Finns. The series grew out of Abusdal’s final assignment at the Danish School of Journalism, and took three years of research and photography to complete.
Officially recognised as a minority culture in Norway, the Forest Finns settled in the region in the early 17th century, clearing the untouched forests to create new agricultural land. Today, many of their original traditions have died out, but Abusdal’s series captures the remaining customs, and the people who choose to live as foresters and farmers in this remote region. His photographs use elements such as fire and smoke to create an ethereal atmosphere in the images, and question ideas of migration and group identity.
Sergey Melnitchenko won the Newcomer Award with the series Behind the Scenes, an exposé of the Chinese nightlife industry which shows the gritty reality of cheap entertainment. The Ukrainian photographer moved to Asia two years ago to work as a dancer, and the experience gave him the inspiration for the project. His backstage photographs show drunk performers, ripped clothing and the bruises left by this intense, all-consuming profession.
Both photographers have been awarded a Leica M camera and lens, while Abusdal pockets a €25,000 prize and Melnitchenko €10,000. The Leica Oskar Barnack Award was established in 1979, and is named after the man who first developed the Leica camera.