The internet did exist, but it wasn’t the way it is today. Not everyone had a computer and smartphones didn’t exist yet. People were not tied to technology as they are today.
They were exciting days full of inspiration and ambition.
One competition we looked forward to every year was the Leica Oskar Barnack Award. The winners often have very successful, high-profile careers behind them. And the nature of the winning work always seemed very progressive – perhaps even more so than in many other well-known competitions.
I’m not a photographer anymore – I’ve traded in my Leicas (I actually used Leicas back then) and hiking boots for a life behind a desk. And while my urge to take photos has waned, my enthusiasm for the craft has never waned.
I’m still excited to see what work the Leica Oskar Barnack Award will bring to light and enhance.
The awards have yet to be announced, but five judges met earlier this year and shortlisted photographers who will compete for the top honor. The jury examined the proposals of more than 60 photography experts.
We are pleased to give you a look below at this year’s shortlisted nominees for the 2022 Leica Oskar Barnack Award. The competition provided the descriptions, edited slightly for clarity.
Lynsey Addario: “Women on the Frontlines of Climate Change”
The American photojournalist (*1973) presents four perspectives on the consequences of climate change: firefighters in Northern California; indigenous women in the Brazilian Amazon fighting against slash-and-burn and land grabbing; women from flooded areas in South Sudan; and women in the drought-stricken regions of Ethiopia. Visually stunning images illustrate how ongoing climate change is threatening or destroying every aspect of life, be it in Africa, North or South America.
Irene Barlian: “Land of the Sea”
As the largest island country on earth, Indonesia is acutely affected by climate change. It threatens the livelihoods of millions of people; their repression has long since become reality. The capital, Jakarta, is already known as the fastest sinking metropolis in the world. A wake-up call in the form of photography: In this series, the Indonesian photographer (*1989) documents a humanitarian crisis and the effects of flooding along the coastal regions.
Alessandro Cinque: “Peru, a toxic state“
Even today, Peruvian mining is characterized by neo-colonial structures. Recorded over the past five years by the Italian photojournalist (b. 1988), this black and white series documents the grave consequences of unbridled mining for the local population. Peru has always been rich in mineral resources; Consequently, mining is an important economic factor for the country. Despite this, indigenous communities remain impoverished and suffer greatly from the destruction of their vital resources.
DOCKS collective: “The flood in West Germany”
In July 2021, entire areas in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia were devastated by unusually heavy rainfall and the resulting flooding. For months, the German photo collective DOCKS has been documenting the destruction and suffering, as well as the efforts to rebuild. Formed in 2018, the group includes Aliona Kardash (born 1990), Maximilian Mann (born 1992), Ingmar Björn Nolting (born 1995), Arne Piepke (born 1991) and Fabian Ritter (born 1992).
Valentin Goppel: “Between the Years”
The German photographer (born 2000) traces the effects of the pandemic on his generation. He, too, experienced the sudden collapse of old habits and the sense of insecurity that seemed to define every plan for the future. The coronavirus appears to be a catalyst for continued disorientation. However, photography offered a tool to better understand his thoughts and fears and to find images for the feeling of being lost.
Kiana Hayeri: “Promises written on ice, left in the sun”
After the withdrawal of Western troops from Afghanistan in the summer of 2021, it became clear within days that the Taliban would work to destroy what had been achieved in terms of freedom of expression, women’s rights and education and replace it with new fear and insecurity. Born in Iran in 1988, the photographer grew up in Canada and has lived in Afghanistan for more than seven years; A special focus of her work is always on the difficult life situations of women.
Nanna Heitmann: “Protector of the Congo Peatland”
Active local climate protection with a global impact: In this series, the German photographer (*1994) introduces the residents of Lokolama, a village in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They are determined to defend their vast and previously untouched peat lands against the threat of deforestation and resource extraction. The area, which is enormously important for the global climate, is one of the largest tropical moors on earth – an ecological marvel that stores many billions of tons of carbon.
M’hammed Kilito: “Before It’s Gone”
Oases are an important ecological buffer against desertification and represent sites of biological diversity. In addition to plentiful water and improved soil quality, oases are home to date palms. The Moroccan photographer (born 1981) not only provides insights into this sensitive ecosystem, but also into the immaterial heritage of the nomadic cultures of his homeland.
Léonard Pongo: “Primal Earth”
Inspired by the country’s traditions, craftsmanship and mythologies, this series is dedicated to the landscapes of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The approach of the Belgian photographer and visual artist (*1988) is highly subjective. Transcending the material limitations of photography, themes of creation, apocalypse and eternal return become an allegorical narrative of the history of humanity and the planet, with Congo at the center.
Victoria Razo: “Haitian Migration Crisis”
This series focuses on the Dorjean-Desmornes family, whom the Mexican photographer (b. 1994) accompanied for two and a half months as they migrated to the United States. Originally from Haiti, the family are among thousands of people who attempted to cross to the United States via Mexico in September 2021. Their fate is representative of those who hope for a better life and great risk despite a journey of many years through migration.
Felipe Romero Beltrán: “Bravo”
In this photographic essay, the Colombian photographer, who was born in 1992 and now lives in Spain, places the border region between the United States and northern Mexico at the center of his observations. The Rio Bravo is defined by its status as both a river and a boundary. The project, which is still ongoing, was started on the Mexican banks of the river. Everything there seems to be in limbo, be it people, objects or architecture. Everything is determined by the borderline situation.
Rafael Vilela: “Forest Ruins: Indigenous Lifestyles and Environmental Crisis in America’s Greatest City”
America’s largest city sits on former forest lands, a large region along the Brazilian coast that was once inhabited by the indigenous Guarani people. One of the few remaining areas in the São Paulo area today, it consists of six villages of about 700 Guarani Mbyá and is the smallest demarcated indigenous land in Brazil. The Brazilian photographer (b. 1989) dedicates himself to this indigenous community and questions the common urban development model in times of climate change.
As you can see, the range of work on this year’s shortlist is extraordinarily compelling. One of this year’s judges, Karin Rehn-Kaufmann, Art Director and Chief Representative of Leica Galleries International (Austria), commented on the entries:
“This year we were once again impressed by the diversity and high quality of the series submitted; The many young participants and the higher proportion of female photographers were particularly pleasing. The fact that we live in challenging times shaped by climate change and global crises also shaped this LOBA year. Supporting the work and commitment of photographers around the world is an increasingly important and meaningful task that Leica Camera AG is happy to take on.”
Other judges for this year’s shortlist are Alessia Glaviano, Head of Global PhotoVogue and Director of PhotoVogue Festival (Italy); Natalia Jiménez-Stuard, photo editor at the Washington Post; and Azu Nwagbogu, Founder and Director of the African Artists’ Foundation and LagosPhoto Festival (Nigeria).
Here you can find out more about the awards and see all photos of the nominated projects.