After writing a short article in response to the announcement of the Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2015 winners here, I decided to go back to the Leica website and have a more detailed look through their ‘top 50 submissions’ to see if, perhaps, there were other submissions that impressed me more. And there were; quite a few of them in fact!I have looked over all 50 (I think) and made instinctive decisions as to which might be in my ‘quick’n dirty top 10’. It’s reassuring to see that there were some really strong entries in the top 50 and its important to remember that photography awards are often determined after much wrangling, horse trading and hand wringing! The consequence is that the winner is not necessarily the one that causes the most excitement among the jury, but the one they disagreed about least! Sadly this can mean that it is almost a case of awarding to the least bad of the best, or at minimum, the one that draws the least heated opposition. So, without further ado, here they are (in no particular order):
Please click on the name of the photographer underneath the screen grab to go to the Leica site and the individual portfolio slideshows.
Comment: Perhaps not the most daring body of work, but one that appeals to me. I love the simplicity, cleanness, homogeneity and respect the difficulty of putting something like this together. Many of these images make compelling solo images.
Comment: I am not a fan of the ‘arms beside body looking straight into the camera’ style, but this work has so much more going on. Bold, colourful, some lovely ‘organised chaos’ compositions and a very strong sense of togetherness binding the portfolio. Personally, I would have appreciated more engaging expressions, rather than the rigid blankness shown here, but I’m sure opinions vary…. however, at least I am interested, I am looking around the frame and very engaged.
Comment: Some images I would personally have left out as they weaken the overall body, but stylistically it all works and I found myself interested and thinking through the images. The situation in Northern Ireland was surely tragic and very much better today, but that does not mean everything is ‘OK’…
Comment: Some very engaging individual images and the overall set holds my attention. The ordinariness… the banality that characterises the reality of conflict comes through strongly and the clear, direct processing really helps to achieve the ‘cognitive dissonance’ people often feel on the ground. This screams ‘real people, real life’.
Comment: I urge you to look through this one full size on the Leica website. The scenic images are brilliantly composed and visually extremely compelling. A lot has been packed into 12 images and I feel there must be another 8 to 18 that would be needed (and probably exist) to fill it out (I’d like to see a whole series of associated portraits). The processing is not typical (IMO) and perfectly jives with the subject matter. Strong stuff…
Comment: Really engaging work from Wilson here. I love some of the people photos and think he has captured the essence of the people and place beautifully… but feel the connection between the two is the only weakness in the series presented. I enjoyed this a lot more than expected and found image 2 bowled me over and had me set for the rest. I would have sequenced them differently, however. I can’t argue with how I have been pulled in though. I want to go and I want to see for myself.
Comment: Brilliant work. This is the sort of project work that takes a long time to produce and requires a very clear response to the environment. It is borne of acute observation and dogged pursuit of the ‘sense of understanding’ that the artist wishes to convey. Some super touches, details and a project I appreciate because he has pursued the same observations and responses I have felt myself in the region. Very well executed and one that made me smile.
Comment:I like that Ryan focused on things other than combat and obvious visual cues. The routine, the monotony and some of the banality of military operations are nicely captured here. I feel this series is Part 1 to something that would then expand and grow in intimacy. This project feels very impersonal and in that lies a strength. A lot of the work and environment is not personal. There are people holding papers… carrying things… doing jobs… passing from A to B, unknown to those around them. It carries something of the anonymity of soldiering with it and I like that. Yes soldiers are very close to their peers (normally) and relationships tightly woven by virtue of interdependence, but this is viewed from outside of those relationships, looking at it from the outside perspective.
Comment: This one interested me, but is probably the least compelling for me personally. Very matter of fact and in keeping with contemporary continental European work, but did leave me wanting to see more and feel pulled in a little deeper.
So there you go my top…9 (I deleted one in the end and have no other to replace it with). I’d love to hear your thoughts on the submissions I’ve selected, as well as any others you may have been really impressed by. Some will hate my choices (fair enough), but I personally feel a number of them are head and shoulders above the winning submission. I only hope that next year’s winner will contain images that actually speak strongly of the intent behind them, just as these do, rather than exist merely as a substrate upon which a concept is attached.