2014 Leica Oskar Barnack Award winners announced

Martin Kollar won the 2014 Leica Oskar Barnack Award:

Martin Kollar, born in what was formerly Czechoslovakia, receives the prestigious Leica Oskar Barnack Award for his project Field Trip, a portfolio of photos taken in Israel.

The photos of the Field Trip portfolio were shot in the context of the project entitled The Places, a dossier about Israel and the West Bank on which Martin Kollar worked together with 12 other internationally acclaimed photographers. The aim of the project is to portray the diversity of the country and, in turn, to illustrate the complexity of one of the world’s most disputed regions. For Kollar, his time in Israel recalled memories of his own past in communist Czechoslovakia. Random frisking and arrests by the police were a part of everyday life, and the people of the region lived with the fear surveillance and denunciation. With his photographs, Martin Kollar provides a transparent illustration of the current situation of the residents of this region. In this, he has captured everyday scenes as well as absurd and humorous situations. The visual content of his portfolio is diverse and it includes a range of subjects – from documentation of the military presence on the West Bank to landscapes, wildlife photos and portraits of the Israeli population. The scenes he captured are banal, absurd and comical in equal measure – and sometimes tragic. Kollar documents a strange and uneasy normality and, in this, depicts the trauma that prevails in the population. Although each of his photos can stand alone, there is a binding element between them all: an omnipresent tension. The military presence appears to be everywhere, and it is far from clear where militarised zones end and civilian life begins.

Martin Kollar was born in 1971 in Zilina, a town in what is now Slovakia. He studied at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava. His photographic projects have been shown around the world, for example in the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai and at the Krakow Photomonth Festival. He has also been awarded numerous prizes.

Alejandro Cegarra won the 2014 Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award:

The Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award 2014 goes to Alejandro Cegarra from Venezuela. His portfolio The Other Side of the Tower of David is dedicated to the squatters in an abandoned tower block in Caracas.

With his photographic project, the up-and-coming Venezuelan photographer Alejandro Cegarra gives a face to squatters in Caracas. Originally planned as the headquarters of a major bank, an office complex and a hotel in the city, the abandoned building of the Centro Financiero Confinanzas, also known as the Torre de David (‘Tower of David’) now houses between 2,000 and 2,500 illegal residents. The construction of the tower block was commissioned in 1990 by the investor David Brillembourg and was also named after him with the nickname ‘Torre de David’. The only partially completed skyscraper has 45 floors and a height of 192 metres. The construction was abandoned in 1994 as a result of the economic crisis and the death of David Brillembourg. The first residents from the slums of the city began to occupy the abandoned investment project in October 2007. In a gradual migration, more and more people moved into the empty storeys and transformed them into apartments with makeshift materials. Outsiders seldom have a chance to see what goes on inside and the community now established in the building. The tower has a reputation of being a hotbed of crime and delinquency. The photographer was therefore all the more surprised how openly the people confronted him and how willingly they allowed him insights into their private lives. Alejandro Cegarra reveals another side of the tower: its residents, who long for normality in their everyday lives and acceptance from ‘normal’ society. The black-and-white photographs document their need for belonging and a secure place to live. Desires that the Venezuelan state has so far been unable to fulfil. For its residents, the tower is not only a refuge and a home, but also a symbol of their revolution against a corrupt and uncaring establishment. What was once planned as a landmark of the city and a symbol of its global importance as a business metropolis now points a finger at the dereliction of the state.

After studying photography and marketing, Alejandro Cegarra (born in 1989) worked in the advertising sector before he began his career as a photojournalist for Ultimas Noticias, Venezuela’s biggest daily newspaper. Today, he works for Associated Press in Caracas.

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