The Winners of the Leica 2012 Oskar Barnack awards were announced this week. American Frank Day was the grand prize winner, and Piotr Zbierski from Poland won the Newcomer award. Here are descriptions of their work from the awards page:
First prize in this year’s highly prestigious photography competition, the ‘Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2012’, goes to US photographer Frank Hallam Day for his portfolio entitled ‘Alumascapes’.
Throughout his career as a photographer, Frank Hallam Day has concerned himself with many different aspects of the medium. Following numerous projects with a focus on political issues, his work has now increasingly turned towards exploring the relationships between man and the environment. For this, he shoots predominantly at night to reveal a suggestive and ambiguous side of the world. The latest example of this is illustrated by his winning portfolio ‘Alumascapes’. This photographic project shows the results of a month-long journey through Florida. In his images, Frank Hallam Day depicts the phenomenon of man and his environment in a unique manner and makes recreational vehicles (RV’s) – ultra-modern, high-tech and luxury homes on wheels – the brightly lit and dazzling stars of his pictures. They seem to be inextricably entwined in the jungle landscapes of Florida at night and appear as essential islands of security in a dark and hostile environment. They protect their owners with a feeling of safety and comfort in the lap of luxury. Of course, this form of escape no longer has much to do with the love of nature, relinquishing everyday luxuries or winding down. Frank Hallam Day’s images reveal that the relationship between man and the environment is more ambiguous than ever before.
This is further emphasized by the double-edged title of his portfolio. On the one hand, the word ‘Alumascapes’ is an invention created by the photographer to describe landscapes dominated by vehicles constructed from aluminium. Simultaneously, the title is also the brand name of an RV model that is seen in several of his images. Other models shown in his work bear names with similar connotations, like Wilderness, Mountaineer, Escaper, Cougar and Falcon. In their inference of a certain closeness to and simultaneous alienation from the world of nature, they too are characteristic of the paradoxical relationship between modern man and the environment. And this is precisely what the photographer reveals in his images: the brightly lit mobile homes cower and hide themselves between the trees. The mood is gloomy and grim, and communicates a feeling of escape, furtiveness, isolation and fear. Although his images appear posed and artificial, they are not. The residents of the vehicles are never seen – they knew nothing of the presence of the photographer. This is because they sit safely and securely, generally watching TV in the bright and air-conditioned security of their luxurious homes away from home – believing they are in perfect harmony with the natural world around them.
Frank Hallam Day’s work has been shown in numerous international exhibitions and is represented in many galleries and private collections. He has worked as a lecturer for photography at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington and is the winner of numerous prizes and scholarships.
WINNER NEWCOMER 2012
Piotr Zbierski is the winner of the ‘Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award 2012’ with his portfolio ‘Pass by Me’.
‘Pass by me’, the winning portfolio, represents the culmination of a project on which Polish photographer Piotr Zbierski has been working for five years. In his long-term project entitled ‘White Elephant’, the photographer explores the expression of emotions and the question of to what extent they can alter reality. In this, he is particularly fascinated by chance encounters. His view of people in the role of an impartial observer, fleeting encounters with strangers – without prior knowledge of his subjects – enables him to see what is pure and essential: people and their entire world of emotions. In the words of Piotr Zbierski, ‘I chose photography because it lets me get very close to people. It is the only medium with a directness that lets me show the existence of the imagination in the real world.’ In his images, he concentrates on faces, gestures, the expression of feelings and relationships. His images have no pretension of being original, but instead are authentic. They depict scenes from the heart of life itself, captured at a wide variety of locations. The majority were shot on journeys through Eastern Europe and India. Although the portfolio appears to have a random structure at first sight, an underlying order and relationship exists between the images. Together they build an entirety and relate a story of happiness, memories and encounters characterised by the photographer’s own particular style.
Piotr Zbierski, born in 1987, attended the Polish National Film School from 2006 to 2012 and graduated with a master’s degree. Selected images from his ‘White Elephant’ projects have already been shown in various exhibitions in Poland, Russia and Portugal.