American photographer wins 2019 Leica Oskar Barnack Award
American photographer, Mustafah Abdulaziz has been named winner of the 2019 Leica Oskar Barnack Award for his series, Water. The Newcomer Award went to the German photographer, Nanna Heitmann for her portfolio, Hiding from Baba Yaga. A total of 12 finalist were recognised in this year’s competition.
Follow this link to view the work of all the finalists.
Shot over the last eight years, Water is a long-term project that has taken Abdulaziz around the world. It illustrates and documents how people interact with nature and what this means for civilisation and the future. Speaking of his portfolio, Abdulaziz said: “Photographs have the potential to be beautiful by nature, but this makes me cautious. When it comes to content and composition, there must be a harmony with something else, otherwise I don’t believe them. When I don’t believe in them, I can’t expect the people who see them to believe in them, either. For the pictures in Water‚ this means that I evaluate every part of my visual approach over and over again.
"There must be a continuous and organic process of discovery. 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 work on 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.”
For her series, Hiding from Baba Yaga, Nanna Heitmann embarked on a journey into the realm of myths and legends. “It soon became clear to me that the role played by the river itself [The Yenisei, one of the world’s longest rivers] 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.
Until she embarked on the project, Heitmann’s 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 inspired her work, Hiding from Baba Yaga. Baba Yaga is an important character of Slavic folk stories, a dangerous and unpredictable witch who lives in a hut in the depths of the forest.
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’, on 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’.
Born in Ulm, Germany, in 1994, Nanna Heitmann finished 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’ organised by the online magazine in 2018. In the same year, she was also honoured with the Vogue Italia Prize at the PH Museum women photographers grant for the portfolio. She has been a candidate for membership of the Magnum agency since 2019.
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