The Leica Oskar Barnack Award is one of the most prestigious in the business and, with a top prize of €25,000 plus a Leica M-System (camera and lens), it’s a lucrative one too. This year, 12 photographers have been picked out for the shortlist – Samuel Gratacap (France), Daniel Chatard (Germany), Max Pinckers (Belgium), Ernesto Benavides (Peru), Vanja Bucan (Slovenia), Turi Calafato (Italy), Stephen Dock (France), Mary Gelman (Russia), Stéphane Lavoué (France), Elsa Stubbé (Belgium), Christian Werner (Germany), and Kechun Zhang (China).
Benavides has been nominated for Dredges, a series on illegal gold mining in his native Peru; Bucan’s Sequences of Truth and Deception looks at the ambivalent relationship between humans and nature. Calafato’s Amuninni ‘u mari [Let’s go to the sea] shows locals on the beach in Sicily; Chatard’s Niemandsland [No man’s land] documents the tense relationship between the mining industry and environmental activists in the Rhenish region.
Dock’s Architecture of Violence was shot in Ireland and records the reverberations of war; Gelman’s Svetlana looks at a community of mentally disabled people in Russia. Gratacap’s Presence records the lives of migrants around the Mediterranean, and was shot in Italy, Tunisia and Libya; Lavoué’s On the Edge of the World shows fishing through the eyes of those on the land – the women of the canneries and the labourers who make tonnes of ice for the freshly-caught fish.
Pinckers’ Red Ink was shot in North Korea under strict state supervision, and investigates how much photography can reflect reality; Stubbé’s Les extraterrestres ont mangé mon jardin [The aliens have eaten my garden] shows a surreal take on nature. Werner’s Road to Ruin documents a journey through Syria after the re-taking of Aleppo; Zhang’s Between the Mountains and Water explores how people interact with nature.
“With every new year of the competition, it is remarkable to see how intensely and creatively the entrants fulfil the thematic requirements of the Leica Oskar Barnack Award,” says Karin Rehn-Kaufmann, art director and chief representative Leica Galleries International, who was on the jury this year. “We have consciously maintained the theme of ‘the relationship between people and their environment’ since the first request for entries to the LOBA competition in 1979. Today, this theme remains as valid as it was in the past – in fact, we could even say that it is now more important than ever before.”
The other members of the jury were Mark Lubell, executive director of the ICP – International Center of Photography, New York; Markus Hartmann, Hartmann Projects; Terje Abusdal, photographer and winner of the Leica Oskar Barnack Award last year; and Christian Wiesner, artistic director of Paris Photo. The winner of both the main award and the Leica Oskar Barnack Award Newcomer, which is open to a photographer under the age of 25, will be announced on 10 October.
The projects on the Leica Oskar Barnack Award shortlist will be shown from 10-31 October at the Neuen Schule für Fotografie Berlin from 10 – 31 October. www.leica-oskar-barnack-award.com