Photograph of a bare tree in water covered in birds
Bodies swimming in lake water

From the ‘Water’ series by Mustafah Abdulaziz

American photographer Mustafah Abdulaziz wins the 2019 Leica Oskar Barnack Award with his eight-year project exploring the world’s water crisis

Earlier this week, New York-born photographer Mustafah Abdulaziz was selected from 2,300 entries as the overall winner of the prestigious Leica Oskar Barnack Award. His winning photography series Water is an eight-year project documenting the global water crisis and illustrating how different cultures connect with water. Supported by the United Nations, WaterAid and the WWF, the series captures our day-to-day interactions with water from washing and swimming to a picnic on an island in China and the dry riverbed of the Ganges in India.

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Industrial scene of men washing in water beneath a bridge

Photograph of a bare tree in water covered in birds

Here and above: images from the ‘Water’ series by Mustafah Abdulaziz

‘If an individual walks away from my work and feels closer with their world and perhaps has feelings of empathy towards it, then I’ve done something that is at direct odds with the overwhelming stimulus of our self-concerned age,’ commented Abdulaziz.

Photograph of man standing by funeral pyre on the riverside

From the ‘Water’ series by Mustafah Abdulaziz

Read more: Olafur Eliasson’s powerful and sensory exhibition at Tate Modern

The LOBA Newcomer Award for photographers under the age of 28 was presented to Nanna Heitmann for her project titled Hiding from Baba Yaga. The series documents Heitmann’s journey along the Yenisei river in Siberia and takes its title from a Slavic folk story character, Baba Yaga, the dangerous and unpredictable witch who lives in a hut in the depths of the forest. Filled with images of wild landscapes and rituals, the series is an exploration not only of local riverside life, but also of the region’s mythic tradition.

Photograph of a basic river ferry crossing in a remote village

Photograph of a man riding a horse through empty wilderness

Here and above: images from ‘Hiding from Baba Yaga’ by Nanna Heitmann

The entries of all twelve finalists will be exhibited at Berlin’s Neue Schule für Fotografie Gallery from 26 September – 25 October 2019, before travelling to Leica’s galleries across the globe.

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