Leica Oskar Barnack Awards 2023 – „New Comer“


Leica presented the annual Oskar Barnack Awards in Wetzlar and the 2023 winners have been announced. U.S.-based photographer Ismail Ferdous and Chinese photographer Ziyi Le.

Ismail Ferdous and Ziyi Le are this year’s winners of the internationally renowned Leica Oskar Barnack Award (LOBA) photography competition, which will be presented for the 43rd time in 2023. In the main category, Bangladeshi-born, U.S.-based photographer Ismail Ferdous won over the five-member jury with his series “Sea Beach.” His series was proposed by Dimitri Beck and James Wellford, who are part of this year’s group of 60 international LOBA nominators. In the category “Leica Oskar Barnack Award Newcomer” (for young photographers up to the age of 30), the Chinese photographer Ziyi Le prevailed with his series “New Comer”. It was submitted by the Fudan University School of Journalism in Shanghai.

The two winning series and the ten other series on the LOBA shortlist can be seen in the exhibition “Leica Oskar Barnack Award – The Winners and All Finalists” until February 2024 at the Ernst Leitz Museum in Leitz-Park Wetzlar.

Ismail Ferdous: Sea Beach | Leica Oskar Barnack Award Winner 2023

At the southern tip of Bangladesh lies Cox’s Bazar. A popular destination for many of the country’s inhabitants, it stretches along the Bay of Bengal and is considered a cultural melting pot, as people from all walks of life come there to relax and unwind for a moment. The New York-based photographer is himself from Bangladesh and returned to this unique place to capture the beachgoers and the special atmosphere in bright colors.

Porträt Ismail Ferdous – © Danielle Amy

Ismail Ferdous: “The beach of Cox’s Bazar is a desirable haven in nature for an overpopulated country. It is a place where every class of society can afford a vacation. There is a remarkable lack of hurry, as if time itself has pleaded for everyone’s burdens to be carried off on the beach.

The LOBA award not only gave me great pleasure, but also made this year very special. This triumph is a testament to the unwavering will and passionate dedication I have given to my profession.”

Ismail Ferdous was born in Bangladesh in 1989 and now lives between New York City and Bangladesh. He is a member of Agence VU’ in Paris and is involved in social, cultural and humanitarian issues. He started photography while studying at the Business School in Dhaka. After the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Dhaka in 2013, one of the worst industrial disasters in Bangladesh’s history, which killed more than 1100 workers, Ferdous made a statement against the devastating effects of the “fast fashion” industry with his documentary film and photography projects “The Cost of Fashion” and “After Rana Plaza”. He has photographically accompanied the topic of migration and flight on four continents. Ferdous works for the most important international newspapers and magazines, and his work has received numerous awards.

Ismail Ferdous – Rettungsschwimmer am Strand von Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesch, 31. Januar 2020 aus der Serie „Sea Beach“ – © Ismail Ferdous/LOBA 2023
Ismail Ferdous – Ein Paar am Strand von Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesch, 2. Februar 2022 aus der Serie „Sea Beach“
© Ismail Ferdous/LOBA 2023

Ziyi Le: New Comer | Leica Oskar Barnack Award Newcomer Winner 2023

The Chinese photographer started his project on Weibo, a short-message portal in China, through which he found people interested in the sensitive portrait series. For him, the staged photo shoots are also a reflection on his own self-doubt and feelings of alienation and spiritual emptiness. The result is a touching portrait of the “New Comers,” a generation in search of its place in society, of personal development.

Ziyi Le: “Throughout my growing up years, I communicated little, was alienated for a long time, which gave me the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere. Out of my primal instinct as a photographer, I decided to explore the similar situation of young people living scattered in different cities, to also check my deep self-doubt in their faces.”

Porträt – Ziyi Le

Ziyi Le was born in Fujian in 1993 and currently lives as a freelance photographer in Yunnan. He started his LOBA project in March 2020, when he had moved to Hangzhou for professional reasons but began to feel bored with the routine of the job. So he developed a series of portraits of his own generation.

“On behalf of the entire LOBA 2023 jury (Caroline Hunter, Picture Editor, The Guardian Saturday Magazine, UK; Whitney Hollington Matewe, Picture Editor, TIME Magazine, USA; François Hébel, Curator, France; and Luca Locatelli, Photographer, Italy), I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to this year’s winners of the Leica Oskar Barnack Award. Together and with mutual appreciation, the jury has accomplished the challenging task of selecting the winners and finalists. The result is a LOBA edition with particularly strong, diverse and moving series,” says Karin Rehn-Kaufmann, Art Director and General Representative of Leica Galleries International.

Ziyi Le – Ein junger Mann schaut aus dem Fenster, Hangzhou, China, 17. April 2021 aus der Serie „New Comer“
© Ziyi Le/LOBA 2023
Ziyi Le – Hangzhou, China, 17. April 2021 aus der Serie „New Comer“
© Ziyi Le/LOBA 2023

The LOBA is one of the most highly endowed and prestigious awards in the field of photography: the winner of the LOBA receives 40,000 euros and a Leica camera kit worth 10,000 euros, while the winner of the Newcomer Award receives 10,000 euros and a Leica Q3.

On October 12, the two winners were honored with the award ceremony and an exhibition showing all twelve series on the shortlist as part of a major celebration of photography in Wetzlar. After the exhibition at the Ernst Leitz Museum in Wetzlar, the LOBA 2023 will be shown in other Leica galleries and at photo festivals worldwide.

Accompanying the exhibition is the LOBA Catalog 2023, which presents the entire LOBA Shortlist 2023 with its complete image series and background information. The exhibition of the winning and shortlisted series was realized with the kind support of WhiteWall.