In the main category, ‘Leica Oskar Barnack Award’, Norwegian photographer Terje Abusdal convinced the five members of the jury with his impressive long-term project titled Slash & Burn. In the category ‘Leica Oskar Barnack Award Newcomer’ for up-and-coming professional photographers aged up to 25, Sergey Melnitchenko from the Ukraine won with his series Behind the Scenes.

Between tradition and mysticism, ethnic origins and clan culture, facts and fiction, Terje Abusdal’s equally mysterious and expressive photography bring us closer to the Forest Finns, an ethnic group that leads a life in close touch with nature in Norway. During his three-year research work, Abusdal delved deeper and deeper into the traditions of the Forest Finns, in the meantime a recognised ethnic minority in Norway. But how can immaterial aspects such as culture be captured in pictures when the traditions are almost extinct? Taking this question as a starting point, Terje Abusdal blurred the transitions between reality and fiction to an ever increasing degree. ‘I added certain elements from the history of the Forest Finns to the story – such as fire, smoke, shamanism’, explains Terje Abusdal. As a result, documentation and imagination are interwoven in his pictures in an irritating and simultaneously organic way. His pictures radiate a suggestive power and unique mysticism – the consequences of a deliberate attempt to create a fictional universe, a magical world.
Sergey Melnitchenko convinced the jury with his impressive, simultaneously realistic and in literal terms, unwashed, in-your-face proximity to his subjects in his portfolio titled Behind the Scenes. “Everything here is hard reality – it’s not about scenes. It’s about real life, our lives, or simply about my life”, says Sergey Melnitchenko. The day dawns after work in a hot and humid night somewhere in China – sweating transvestites, girls in bathtubs filled with beer, drunken artistes, and even more drunken guests. Bruised and battered legs, feet raw from dancing, laddered stockings in the light of make-up mirrors. Scratches and scars, mostly invisible, as they are wounds inflicted on maltreated souls. To deliver such insights, getting close is far from enough. Like Melnitchenko, you have to be a part of it all. The exhibition will include also the other 10 finalists: Clara Chichin; Yoann Cimier; Aleksey Kondratyev; Gideon Mendel; Dominic Nahr; Ekaterina Sevrouk; Viktoria Sorochinski; Vera Torok; Emilien Urbano; Patrick Willocq.

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