Now in its 32nd year the Leica Oskar Barnack Award is truly a Leica tradition. Named after the inventor of the Leica camera, Oskar Barnack, who was also a pioneer in reportage photography. An international jury awards the Leica Oskar Barnack Award and Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award to photographers whose unerring powers of observation capture and express the relationship between humans and the environment in graphic form in a sequence of up to 12 images. As the 2011 competition opens for entries, we had a chance to speak with Tina Weisner who oversees the process on behalf of Leica Camera AG. Here she shares her insights into this renowned photographic competition.
Q: Hello Tina, could you please tell us about your position & career at Leica Camera?
A: I work in the Marketing & Communication Department and am responsible for the cultural projects, like the Leica Gallery in Solms and, of course, the Leica Oskar Barnack Award photo competition. I guess you could say I’ve been around for a while. I started at Leitz Wetzlar, spent some years overseas at Leica USA and have been working in the communication department at Leica Camera in Solms since the nineties.
Q: What´s the Oskar Barnack Award? Who is eligible to enter the contest? What kind of pictures are you looking for? Which pictures have the best chances? Who can take part?
A: The Oskar Barnack Award is named after the inventor of the Leica camera, whose photos about the flood of the river Lahn in Wetzlar in 1920, by the way, are considered to be the first reportage series shot with a 35mm still camera. It is a very prestigious photo competition that is now in its 32nd year. This is really a Leica tradition! And look at the list of previous winners!
We accept entries from professional photographers or in the case of the Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award, prospective professional photographers aged 25 or under. The competition is not intended for amateur photographers.
Photographers should submit a series of 12 photos that capture and express the relationship between man and the environment with acute vision and contemporary visual style – creative, groundbreaking and unintrusive. It can a very wide field of subjects, from traditional reportage photography to very emotional, sensitive, fine art subjects. There are many different approaches, which is what makes it so special. Please note that at least one of the submitted pictures in each series has to have been taken in 2010.
I am sure I am not revealing a secret when I say that the editing of the series is very important. For viewers, though not for the jury, picture number one plays an important role. It is the photo that appears in the online gallery and all others from the series appear after clicking on that first image.
Q: What’s new this year?
A: We have increased the value of the competition prizes! The winner will a Leica M9 camera and a lens worth 9,500 euros, in addition to a cash prize of 5,000 euros. The winner of the Newcomer award will receive a Leica M9 camera plus a Leica M lens.
Q: Can you please explain how photographers can enter the contest?
A: Photographers can submit their entries on the Leica Oskar Barnack Award website until March 1, 2011. All the technical details on how to upload their photo series are on the site. After a successful upload, they will receive a confirmation e-mail.
Q: Who’s on the jury? When are the winners going to be announced?
A: It will be a competent, international jury, which we will introduce at a later date. The winners will be revealed June 1, 2011.
Q: As you know, photographers are concerned about giving up copyrights upon entering the contest or illegal use of their pictures. How are you going to use the pictures collected?
A: All entries will go into our online gallery. The images can be shared on Facebook, but in such a low resolution that there’s no worry. The contest rules will explain everything. Only the winner and the ten finalists will be used by Leica Camera in their public relations work and only in relation to the award.
Q: For the third year in a row, the images are collected solely on the internet. How did that change your way of working? Did you see a change in the number of entries?
A: Yes, we absolutely saw a change. When we first offered the competition online in 2009, the number of entries increased threefold. Then, in 2010, it increased once more to a total number of 1700 entries from 79 different countries. I guess it is just going with the times – the online competition is much more convenient, especially for the jury. Although I must admit that, looking at nicely enlarged darkroom prints also had its charm.
In any case, I think most important is the quality of the submissions, not the quantity.
I would like to wish all photographers best of luck and thank them for their participation!
-Leica Internet Team
For more information about the Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2011 visit the contest website, http://www.leica-oskar-barnack-award.com/.