The Leica Oskar Barnack Award (LOBA) is one of the most prestigious prizes in photography, named after the German inventor who designed what would become the first commercially successful 35mm stills camera. Winners tend to be portrait, documentary, fine art and travel photographers (though not always)
The winners of this year Leica Oskar Barnack Award have been announced, with the main prize going to Ismail Ferdous, a Bangladeshi photographer now based in the US, while Chinese photographer Ziyi Le wins the Newcomer prize.
About Ismail Ferdous
Ferdous triumphed with his Sea Beach series, which focuses on Cox’s Bazar, a popular destination for Bangladeshis of all income levels which lies at the southernmost point of the country.
“The beach at Cox’s Bazar represents a popular escape into nature for an overpopulated country. It’s a place where anyone, from any level of society, can afford to take a holiday. The lack of a sense of urgency is noteworthy, as though time itself is begging people to abandon all their burdens and go to the beach.
Ismail Ferdous was born in Bangladesh, in 1989, and currently lives between New York City and Bangladesh. He is a member of the Agence VU’ in Paris, and his work is committed to social, cultural and humanitarian themes.
He first got involved with photography while studying at business school in Dhaka, and built his reputation with his powerful images of the aftermath the collapse of the Rana Plaza clothing factory in Dhaka in 2013 – one of the worst industrial disasters in Bangladeshi history, which killed more than 1,100 workers.
About Ziyi Le
Ziyi Le, who wins the Newcomer award, is a young Chinese photographer who grabbed the judges attention with his staged photo shoots that reflect on his own self-doubt and feelings of alienation.
‘Throughout my whole time growing up, I had little communication, and was alienated for a long time, thereby giving rise to a sense of being in the middle of nowhere. Out of a basic instinct as a photographer, I decided to explore the similar void in the state of mind of young people like me, scattered in different cities, to see their faces as well as explore my deep self-doubt.’
Ziyi Le was born in Fujian, in 1993, and currently works as a freelance photographer in Yunnan. He began his LOBA project in March 2020, when he had moved to Hangzhou for professional reasons, but became bored with the routine of his job. This incited him to develop this portrait series of his own generation.
Ferdous wins the grand prize of 40,000 euros and Leica camera equipment valued at 10,000 euros, while Ziyi Le gets 10,000 euros and a Leica Q3. Both winners will also be exhibited at Leica Galleries and photo festivals around the world with other shortlisted winners, after the inaugural exhibition at the Leica HQ in Wetzlar.
Elliott Erwitt honoured
In more Leica news, veteran portrait, street and documentary photographer Elliott Erwitt (below) has been inaugurated into the Leica Hall of Fame as part of the company’s Celebration of Photography.
Now 95 and still going strong, Erwitt photographed some of the biggest names of the 20th century, including Marilyn Monroe and Che Guevara, while also taking iconic images of ordinary people (a couple kissing, as captured in the rear view mirror of a car, for instance) and, of course, dogs.
‘His incomparable pictorial humour brings delight around the world,’ said a Leica spokesperson, going on to quote from Erwitt himself. ‘You can find pictures anywhere. It’s simply a matter of noticing things and organizing them. You just have to care about what’s around you and have a concern with humanity and the human comedy… From time to time, you might produce an image that says something. That’s already enough. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt when you happen to be in the right place at the right time.”
Erwitt chose 50 of the best examples of his work and approach for an accompanying exhibition at the Leica Gallery in Wetzlar.
From Leica, October 12th, 2023
On 12th October 2023, as part of the Celebration of Photography, Leica Camera will be honouring renowned Magnum photographer Elliott Erwitt, with the Leica Hall of Fame Award for his life’s work. An accompanying exhibition will be on display at the Leica Gallery in Wetzlar up until end of January 2024. One of Erwitt’s well-known motifs has also been selected as Leica Picture of the Year.
Marilyn Monroe or Che Guevara, a loving couple in a rear-view mirror or an elegant leap in front of the Eiffel Tower, portraits of people or dogs: many of Erwitt’s iconic motifs are anchored in the records of photographic history and have made the 95-year-old a living legend. His incomparable pictorial humour brings delight around the world.
Erwitt’s images have an emotional impact on the viewer, while usually guiding them towards more far-reaching and profound ideological considerations. To be able to capture all this in a single moment and transfer it into a picture, may well be the secret behind his photography.
“You can find pictures anywhere. It’s simply a matter of noticing things and organizing them. You just have to care about what’s around you and have a concern with humanity and the human comedy,” the brilliant storyteller explains in a rather understated manner. “You only need the humble ability to bring order into a motif, to compose a picture, or to recognise and reflect a certain mood. From time to time, you might produce an image that says something. That’s already enough. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt when you happen to be in the right place at the right time.”
The best examples of his incomparable vision of the world can be seen in the accompanying exhibition at the Leica Gallery in Wetzlar, for which the photographer chose 50 of his favourite motifs taken over seven decades. Erwitt’s career began in New York in 1948 and developed in particular in 1953 when Robert Capa invited him to become a member of the Magnum Agency.
He was on the move constantly, photographing actors, politicians and celebrities, as well as street scenes, landscapes and urban settings. Furthermore, in addition to numerous commercial assignments, he always found time for his own motifs, whereby children, couples and dogs were to become his favourite topics. He has captured countless unforgettable moments, with humour, precision and charm. His motifs are direct and entertaining, sensitive and incisive, both American and cosmopolitan.
The son of Russian emigrants, Elliot Erwitt was born in Paris on 26th July 1928. He grew up in Italy and France. In 1939 he emigrated to America with his family. His interest in photography emerged when he was a teenager living in Hollywood. He began working as a professional photographer in New York in 1948, and in 1953 Robert Capa invited him to become a member of the Magnum Agency, which Erwitt was to preside over for a number of terms. His career over many decades led him to becoming one of the best known and busiest photographers of our times.
Starting in 1970, he also began to make films and work for television. Erwitt stepped back from photographic assignments over twenty years ago and now gives his time to reappraising his life’s work with numerous exhibitions and photo books. He lives in New York City, where the new Leica Gallery will also host an exhibition next year to celebrate Erwitt’s Leica Hall of Fame Award.
Leica Picture of the Year
A limited edition of Erwitt’s pictures will be on offer exclusively through Leica Galleries as the 2023 Picture of the Year. The perfectly symbiotic portrait of a bulldog with his companion sitting behind him was taken in 2000, very close to the photographer’s studio in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Since 2021, Leica Camera AG has granted the Leica Picture of the Year recognition to outstanding Leica photographers who have been inducted into the Leica Hall of Fame.
Leica Hall of Fame Award
Pictures that have touched the world, moments that remain unforgotten: Leica Camera has been inducting outstanding photographers into the Leica Hall of Fame since 2011 – artists whose vision of the world has moved something or has changed something. Timeless iconic images that reveal the human condition and have become part of our collective memory, offer testimony to their creativity. Steve McCurry was the first photographer honoured with the Leica Hall of Fame Award in 2011. He was followed by Barbara Klemm, Nick Út, René Burri, Thomas Hoepker and Ara Güler. In 2016, the award was granted to Joel Meyerowitz, in 2017 to Gianni Berengo Gardin; and, in 2018, to Bruce Davidson and Jürgen Schadeberg. In 2019, Walter Vogel was honoured; followed by Ralph Gibson in 2021. With Elliott Erwitt, the number of recipients of the Leica Hall of Fame Award has reached 13.
In addition to honouring Elliott Erwitt with the Leica Hall of Fame Award during the Celebration of Photography, this year’s winners of the 43rd edition of the Leica Oskar Barnack Award will also be celebrated. Furthermore, the winning and all shortlisted series will be exhibited at the Ernst Leitz Museum until the end of January 2024.