Leica Camera announces 2019 Oskar Barnack Award winners

Leica Camera announced today American photographer Mustafah Abdulaziz as the winner for the 2019 Leica Oskar Barnack Award (LOBA) for his series, ‘Water’ (see pictures above).

German photographer Nanna Heitmann was also announced as the winner of the Newcomer Award for her portfolio, ‘Hiding from Baba Yaga,’ which is awarded to up-and-coming photographers under the age of 25 (see pictures above).

Abdulaziz’s 8-year project took him across the globe as he searched for human interaction with nature, illustrating the story for the future of our civilization. ‘Water’ allowed him to draw attention to the pertinent relationship we as people have with our planet. Heitmann’s work pays homage to her journey through Siberia along the Yenisei River. The “dreamlike images” that she took represented the myths and folk tales of locals that she passed along her journey.

Press release:

Mustafah Abdulaziz and Nanna Heitmann Take Home the Top Honors from the 2019 Leica Oskar Barnack Award

The impressive works of the American and German photographers were chosen over 2,300 submissions from 99 countries

September 3, 2019 – The winners of this year’s internationally acclaimed Leica Oskar Barnack Award (LOBA) photographic competition have been chosen amongst 2,300 worldwide submissions. In the main category, “Leica Oskar Barnack Award,” American photographer Mustafah Abdulaziz won over the esteemed jury with his series titled, “Water.” In the category “Leica Oskar Barnack Award Newcomer,” for up-and-coming photographers under the age of 28, German photographer Nanna Heitmann took home the award with her project titled, “Hiding from Baba Yaga.”

For Mustafah Abdulaziz, the creation of his winning photo series “Water” took eight years and numerous experiences from around the world to create. The images illustrate and document how people interact with nature and what this means for civilization and the future. While producing his photographic content, Abdulaziz required strict evaluation of his visual approach to ensure there was a continuous and organic process of discovery throughout the photo series.

Speaking about his winning portfolio, Abdulaziz noted, “’Water’ is my way of exploring the world, of taking part in it in a relevant and responsible way and lending meaning to an overwhelmingly big but immensely important topic. I’ve created this not only for the immense satisfaction it brings me, but also because it’s necessary. Our relationship to our planet could be the most important issue of our age.”

Before her semester abroad in the Siberian city of Tomsk, Russia had always been just a big, dark patch on the map for the LOBA Newcomer Award winner Nanna Heitmann. Up until then, her idea of Russia was predominantly shaped by children’s films of the Soviet era and the Slavic folk tales she had read as a child, which were the inspiration behind her photographic project, “Hiding from Baba Yaga.” Baba Yaga, a character of Slavic folk stories, is a dangerous and unpredictable witch who lives in a hut in the depths of the forest. Following the course of The Yenisei river, one of the world’s longest rivers, Heitmann drove through the harsh wilderness of the Siberian Taiga, rich in ancient myths, legends and rituals. She saw this photographic journey not only as a documentation of the life along the river, but also of the rich myths and folk tales of the region.

“It soon became clear to me that the role played by the river itself was not so important. Most of the time, I just kept my eyes open for interesting characters, because people have always sought protection and freedom on the banks of the Yenisei and in the neighbouring Taiga: serfs on the run, criminals, rebels, or simply adventurers and Orthodox believers,” explains Heitmann.

Regarding the winners of this year’s award, Karin Rehn-Kaufmann, Art Director & Chief Representative Leica Galleries International, noted, “On behalf of the entire jury, Steve McCurry, World-Renowned Photographer & founder of ImagineAsia, Enrico Stefanelli, Director of Photolux Festival, Milena Carstens, Director of Photography ZEITmagazin, Max Pinckers, Photographer & winner of the LOBA 2018 and I, congratulate the winners of this year’s Leica Oskar Barnack Awards. Mustafah Abdulaziz and Nanna Heitmann have been selected amongst a total of 2,300 competitors from 99 countries and have convinced all members of the jury with their impressive and moving portfolios.”

The winners and finalists of the LOBA will be honored at a formal ceremony in Berlin on September 25, 2019. The portfolios of all twelve finalists will also be on display from September 25 through October 25 at a major exhibition with the generous support of Ilford Imaging Europe and Halbe-Rahmen in the “Neuen Schule für Fotografie”Berlin. The LOBA Catalog, which will be published to accompany the exhibition, will present the winners and finalists in detail featuring comprehensive portfolios and interviews. Further information and in-depth interviews with the twelve finalists can be found at www.leica-oskar-barnack-award.com.

About Mustafah Abdulaziz
Born in New York in 1986, Mustafah Abdulaziz studied journalism and political sciences, but did not complete his studies. He is a self-taught photographer. He moved to Berlin in 2011, after working as the first staff photographer for the Wall Street Journal. His long-term project “Water,” of which he has been working for more than eight years, was sponsored by the United Nations, WaterAid, WWF, VSCO and Google. The project has been published in Spiegel, The Guardian, New Yorker and Time.

Nanna Heitmann
Born in Ulm, Germany, in 1994, Nanna Heitmann finished off her studies of photojournalism and documentary photography with a semester abroad in the Siberian city of Tomsk. Her work was shortlisted for the “LensCulture Emerging Talent Awards” organized by the online magazine in 2018. In the same year, she was also honored with the Vogue Italia Prize at the PH Museum women photographers grant for the portfolio shown here. She has been a candidate for membership of the Magnum agency since 2019.

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