While the internet certainly existed, it wasn’t what it is today. Not everyone had a computer and smartphones did not exist. People weren’t attached to technology like they are today.
Those were heady days, full of inspiration and ambition.
One competition we looked forward to every year was the Leica Oskar Barnack Prize. Winners have often had very successful and high-profile careers. And the kind of work that was honored always seemed to be very progressive – perhaps even more so than in many other well-known competitions.
I’m no longer a photographer – I traded in my Leicas (I was actually using Leicas at the time) and walking shoes for life behind the desk. And, although my desire to take photographs has waned, my enthusiasm for the craft has never wavered.
I am always thrilled to see what work is unearthed and elevated by the Leica Oskar Barnack award.
The awards have yet to be announced, but five judges got together earlier in the year and created a shortlist of photographers who will compete for the top honor. The judges reviewed entries submitted by more than 60 photography experts.
We are delighted to provide you with an overview of this year’s shortlisted candidates for the 2022 Leica Oskar Barnack Award below. The contest provided the descriptions, which have been slightly edited for clarity.
Lynsey Addario: “Women on the front lines of climate change”
The American photojournalist (b. 1973) presents four perspectives on the consequences of climate change: female firefighters in Northern California; indigenous women in the Brazilian Amazon fighting against slash-and-burn practices and land grabbing; women in flooded areas of southern Sudan; and women in drought-ravaged areas of Ethiopia. Visually striking images illustrate how advancing climate change is threatening or destroying all aspects of life, whether in Africa or North or South America.
Irene Barlian: ‘Land of the Sea’
As the largest island nation on the planet, Indonesia is severely affected by climate change. It threatens the livelihoods of millions of people; their displacement has long since become a reality. The capital city of Jakarta is already known as the fastest sinking metropolis in the world. It’s a wake-up call in the form of photography: in this series, the Indonesian photographer (b. 1989) documents a humanitarian crisis and the effects of flooding along coastal regions.
Alessandro Cinque: “Peru, a toxic state”
Even today, Peruvian mining is defined by neocolonial structures. This black and white series, taken over the past five years or so by the Italian photojournalist (b. 1988), documents the serious ramifications of rampant mining for local people. Peru has always been rich in mineral wealth; therefore, mining is an important economic asset for the country. Despite this, indigenous communities remained impoverished and suffered greatly from the destruction of their vital resources.
DOCKS Collective: “The Flood in West Germany”
In July 2021, entire regions of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany were devastated by unusually heavy rainfall and the resulting flooding. For months, the German photography collective DOCKS has documented the destruction and suffering, as well as the reconstruction efforts. The group founded in 2018 includes Aliona Kardash (b. 1990), Maximilian Mann (b. 1992), Ingmar Björn Nolting (b. 1995), Arne Piepke (b. 1991) and Fabian Ritter (b. 1992).
Valentin Goppel: “Between the Years”
The German photographer (born in 2000) traces the effects of the pandemic on his generation. He too experienced the sudden breaking of old habits and the feeling of insecurity that seemed to determine any plan for the future. The coronavirus appears to be a catalyst for continued disorientation. The photograph, however, presented a tool to better understand one’s thoughts and fears, and to find images for the feeling of abandonment.
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 seek to destroy what had been achieved regarding freedom of expression, women’s rights and education. , replacing them with renewed fear and insecurity. Born in Iran in 1988, the photographer grew up in Canada and has lived in Afghanistan for more than seven years; time and time again, her work focuses in particular on the difficult living conditions of women.
Nanna Heitmann: “Protectors of the Congo peatlands”
Active local climate protection with global repercussions: in this series, the German photographer (born in 1994) presents the inhabitants of Lokolama, a village in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are determined to defend their vast, hitherto untouched peatlands from the threat of deforestation and resource extraction. Hugely important to the global climate, the region represents one of the largest tropical peatlands on the planet – an ecological wonder that stores billions of tons of carbon.
M’hammed Kilito: ‘Before it’s over’
Oases are an important ecological buffer against desertification and represent places of biological diversity. In addition to abundant water and better soil quality, the oases are home to date palms. The Moroccan photographer (born in 1981) gives an insight not only into this sensitive ecosystem but also into the intangible heritage of the nomadic cultures of his country of origin.
Leonardo Pongo: ‘Primordial Earth’
Inspired by the traditions, crafts and mythologies of the country, this series is dedicated to the landscapes of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The approach of the Belgian photographer and visual artist (born in 1988) is very subjective. Transgressing the material limits of photography, the themes of emergence, apocalypse and eternal return become an allegorical narrative on the history of humanity and the planet, with the Congo at its center.
Victoria Razo: “Haitian migration crisis”
This series focuses on the Dorjean-Desmornes family, whom the Mexican photographer (born in 1994) accompanied for 2 and a half months during their migration to the United States. The family are from Haiti and are among thousands of people who attempted to reach the United States via Mexico in September 2021. Their plight is representative of those who hope for a better life by migrating, despite a trip representing years of deprivation. and great risk.
Felipe Romero Beltran: “Bravo”
In this photographic essay, the Colombian photographer, born in 1992 and now residing 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 border. The project, still ongoing, began on the Mexican banks of the river. Everything there seems to be in limbo, be it people, objects or architecture. Everything is defined by the border situation.
Rafael Vilela: “Forest Ruins: Indigenous Way of Life and Environmental Crisis in the Largest City in the Americas”
The largest city in the Americas stands on former forest land, a vast region along the Brazilian coast, once inhabited by the indigenous Guarani people. One of the few remaining pockets today in the São Paulo region consists of six villages with approximately 700 Guarani Mbyá, and is the smallest demarcated indigenous land in Brazil. The Brazilian photographer (born in 1989) is dedicated to this indigenous community and questions the standard model of urban development in times of climate change.
As you can see, the scope of work on this year’s shortlist is extraordinarily compelling. One of this year’s judges, Karin Rehn-Kaufmann, Artistic Director and Chief Representative of Leica Galleries International (Austria), said of the entries:
“Once again this year, we were impressed by the diversity and high quality of the series submitted; it was especially nice to see the many young participants, as well as the higher proportion of female photographers. The fact that we live in difficult times, defined by climate change and global crises, has also left its mark on this LOBA year. Supporting the work and commitment of photographers around the world is an increasingly important and meaningful task, which Leica Camera AG is happy to take on.
Other judges on 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 the LagosPhoto Festival (Nigeria).
You can read more about the awards and see all the photos of the shortlisted projects here.